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Jerusalem: father Faltas (Custody) to SIR, “never seen so much rage before. Don’t stop praying and hoping for peace”

“I have been in the Holy Land for 30 years and I have never seen the like, I have never seen so much rage from Palestinians. People are dying in Gaza, riots are taking place in Jenin, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem and in other West Bank cities. The toll of victims is being updated all the time. And it might be even worse tomorrow”. The person speaking on the phone to SIR from Jerusalem is father Ibrahim Faltas, director of Franciscan schools in the Holy City and in charge of relations with Israel and Palestinians for the Custody of the Holy Land. The Franciscan father knows the local situation very well: during the so-called second Intifada, he was involved in the Bethlehem Nativity siege (from April 2nd to May 10th 2002) and in the forefront of the negotiations to reach an agreement with the 240 Palestinian activists who had taken shelter in the basilica to escape being captured by the Israeli army. An agreement that was reached after a 39 days’ siege. “Since then, things have got worse and the peace process seems to have stopped”, he tells while he listens to “breaking news” about the Palestinians’ protests and the riots in Gaza and in the West Bank. All this, while president Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, unveiled the coat of arms and opened the US embassy in Jerusalem. “President Trump’s decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem has not only kindled the Palestinians’ resentment, it has lso split Israeli society. Here in town there are Israelis who cheer and others who protest”, states father Ibrahim, confirming the news that about 200 Israeli and Palestinian activists are rallying just in front of the diplomatic HQ. It is more appropriate than ever, now, the priest points out, “to remember John Paul II’s words, when he said that ‘If there is no peace in Jerusalem, there will be no peace anywhere else in the world’. Jerusalem is a unique city. It must be a city for everyone and everyone’s city”. “The toll of casualties in Gaza now amounts to 41 people dead and 1,800 injured, but many of them are serious. A number that is bound to increase, unfortunately. We are having a terrible day today, and tomorrow the Palestinians will celebrate Nakba, the catastrophe, which is the birth of Israel for them. Much worse might happen. On our part – the Franciscan father concludes –, we keep praying for peace and hoping. As Franciscans, we have been in the Holy Land for 800 years and we have never lost hope and we won’t ever. Praying and hoping, while helping the people who suffer, who want dialogue and peace. These are tough, difficult days, but let’s pray that fine, peaceful days may come”.

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