By: Agenzia Fides
Jerusalem – “We visited the district of Sajaya, where 80 per cent of homes and other buildings have been reduced to heaps of rubble. We saw things which can only be compared with the situation of cities raised to the ground during the Second World War”. With this image William Shomali, patriarchal Vicar of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem of the Latins, summarises impressions recorded in the brief visit on Monday 1st September to the city of Gaza, together with the Administrator general of the Patriarchate, Fr. Imad Twal, and the Chancellor of the Patriarchate, Fr. George Ayoub.
During the few hours spent in Gaza (the Israelis close Eretz check point at 3pm) the patriarchal delegation was able to meet members of the small Christian community there: besides the assistant parish priest and the sisters belonging to three congregations operating in Gaza (Institute of the Incarnate Word, Sisters of the Rosary and Sisters of Mother Teresa) the Catholic Bishop and the two accompanying priests visited Greek-Orthodox Bishop Alexios, who has also remained at his post all through the period of Israeli army incursions.
“The Orthodox Bishop – Bishop Shomali tells Fides – gave us a truly fraternal welcome and he praised the efficient work of Caritas, the Pontifical Mission and Catholic Relief Service for assisting the people during and after weeks of military operations”. The patriarchal delegation also went to see the Anglican Hospital which in the past two months has assisted more than 4,000 injured persons.
The psychological situation described by Bishop Shomali reveals much shadow and little light: “On the one hand – the Patriarchal vicar of Jerusalem explains to Fides – the people are relieved that the ceasefire still holds. Fishermen, with permits to fish inside six miles from the coast, come in every morning laden with catch, and by eight o’clock have sold everything. The possibility to provide food with the work of their own hands, and the prospect of finding more work in the task of rebuilding, help kindle a little hope. Besides – the Palestinian Bishop adds – even the young people there have already seen 3 military campaigns against Gaza and each time the destruction is greater than the time before. It will be years before the city can return to its previous situation. This feeds discouragement, dries up hope for the future. Even in the small Christian community, many dream of moving away”.
The members of the patriarchal delegation did not meet political representatives, but in conversation with Christians and Muslims they sensed growing hostility towards Israel, because- Bishop Shomali remarks– “war can never sow love”. At the same time consensus regarding Hamas – criticised for its strategy even by the President of the Palestinian National Authorities, Abu Mazen – appears by no means unanimous. The Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem concludes : “there were even some, who with bitter irony, remarked: now Gaza is destroyed, and all we have gained is the chance to eat a little fish”