Holy Land, Travelogue

Human Dignity for Both Palestinians and Israelis

Msgr. Joseph Ciampaglio – Diocese of Paterson

We began our day with Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Despite the ornate surroundings, we were caught up in the mystery of what happened 2,000 years ago in this holy place – the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus – the central mysteries of our faith. To some degree that spirit permeated our day – a busy day of meetings with various officials and educators.

Mr. Avraham Lavine, Director of International Organization’ Relations, Ministry of Labor and social affairs and his associate, Eliane Haddad.

One of the major responsibilities of this office is to relate to 96 different humanitarian organizations, such as Catholic Relief Services, which respond mainly to the Palestinian needs. In 1994, when the Palestinian economy completely collapsed, CRS became central in providing food and other humanitarian aid.

Mr. Lavine believes that the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians wish to live in harmony, yet the actions of the extremists on either side continue to upset the apple cart. Only a deep sense of compromise can solve the current problems.

Risa Zoll of B’Tselem

B’Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the occupied territories. B’Tselem – “in the image of” – is a dynamic agency founded by a group of public figures to enhance human dignity for both Palestinians and Israelis.

It employs 26 field researchers. They take testimony from victims of human rights violations, video the respondents and publicize the facts to governmental agencies and the general public. It attempts to “jar Israelis from a state of denial.” They have documented facts that the “wall” and the settlements have caused many human rights violations for Palestinians. It is a credit to the Israeli government that it permits this organization to function so openly.

Most powerful of all were the videos taken by the local Palestinian people of the different abuses at the hand of the settlers. Settlers are seen taunting, throwing stones, at the Palestinians, in the presence of the police, so that the Palestinians are virtually prisoners in their own homes.

After lunch we headed for

Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Inter-religious affairs.

This man is truly dynamic and extremely articulate as he describes his life experiences of complex issues and situations without taking a breath. He suggested that we could help solve the problem if we enable people to get beyond the mentality of seeing the Israelis as all right and the Palestinians as all wrong or vice versa. See the facts as they are – people can be loved without somebody being hated. Also needed is more active engagement by the United States, without taking sides.

Dr. Mahadi Hadi, Director of PASSA

Mr. Hadi is a brilliant man who has compiled detailed histories of both Israelis and Palestinians from the founding to the present in order to help people, especially youth, to talk, research and educate.

After years of study, discussion, meeting and organization, this man’s heart spilled over as he said, “at sixty I am tired of being nice. I must speak out about the facts as I see them.” The heart needs to be reached if decency, respect and dignity are to be honored. We must grapple with the soul of humanity to bring about peace.

Our visit with the Latin Patriarch was canceled, which was disappointing. By the end of the day, we were overloaded with information and needed a break to process all we had heard.

In summary, today was a powerful, yet overwhelming day!

Msgr. Joseph Ciampaglio, from the Diocese of Paterson, is a member of the Global Fellows: Parish Homily Program. The Global Fellows: priests, deacons and seminarians, travel to the developing world to experience the plight of the poor and marginalized overseas. Upon their return, the Global Fellows are empowered to preach in parishes across the United States about social justice and peace around the world. This entry is a personal reflection by one of the participants in this program, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Catholic Relief Services, or its partners.

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