ISRAEL – GAZA FROM AT CLOSE QUARTERS
FR. PAWEŁ RYTEL-ANDRIANIK
In the Holy Land, instead of the greeting ‘Good morning’. ‘Peace’ is said – in Hebrew ‘Szalmon’, and in Arabian ‘Salam’. Peace is a great desire of these two nations. Events of the last weeks, however, prove the fact that the process of peace in the Near East is in a deep crisis.
Let’s remind that on 12 June this year, three Israeli students –Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel – wanting to get to Jerusalem from the district in Hebron (Jewish enclave surrounded by a territory of the Palestinian Autonomy), stopped cars ‘for hitchhike’. Then they were kidnapped and murdered, of which some people accuse Hamas. A day after the funeral of the teenagers in eastern Jerusalem an Arabian boy at their age – Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped in the street. Citizens of Israel, who murdered him are in prison, whereas the very act was condemned by the Israeli authorities. At that time rockets were fired from Gaza onto the territory of Israel. The respond of the Israeli army was smashing. Mass media inform about numerous casualties on the Palestinian side.
Fr. Jorge Hernandez, a parish priest from the Catholic church in Gaza said: - The situation of the Christians in the sphere of Gaza is twice tragic, because on this area they are endangered by the Muslims, similarly as it takes place in Syria and in other countries.
The Arabian society in Gaza is very divided. There are Shias and Sunnis here, there is Hamas and Fatah and the Muslim Brotherhood which makes an agreement very difficult.
In the sphere of Gaza people live in fear about their safety and even life. However, rockets are still being fired onto the territory of Israel which meets with a smashing answer of the Israeli army. Rockets of Hamas fired onto cities such as Aszdod, Tel Awiw or Jerusalem are seized and destroyed by the system of the so-called Iron Copula. Therefore, on the Israeli side there are not so many casualties as in the Sphere of Gaza. Bina Yebokowitz, whose son is in the Israeli army now by the border with Gaza, says: - On the one hand, I feel sorry for all those who are killed in this conflict, but on the other hand I wonder how it is possible to live in constant uncertainty, that maybe today or tomorrow we will be attacked by other Arabian countries. In Syria the Muslims kill one another, similarly as in Iraq. I look at Egypt hopefully and I trust that my son will return home happily.
In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it is worth noting the contribution of popes in the process of peace in the Near East. It is necessary to note that the visits of three popes always took place before big Israeli-Palestinian conflicts or just after them, being a kind of a warning against consequences of a war and an encouragement to build relations of peace. John Paul II was in the Holy Land in March 2000, and this September a military conflict called the Second Initfada broke out, which lasted for five years and involved many victims on both sides of the conflict. Benedict XVI arrived in the Holy Land in May 2009, after the end of fights in the Sphere of Gaza. Whereas pope Francis finished the apostolic visit in May 2014, and in June the Israeli-Palestinian conflict revived. In this tragic situation the Holy Father phoned the president of Israel Szymon Peres and the president of the Palestinian Autonomy Mahmud Abbas, asking for making efforts to bring in peace in Israel and in the Sphere of Gaza. During the Angelus prayer pope Francis made an appeal for a prayer for peace in the Holy Land: ‘(…) because a prayer helps us not to be overcome by evil, nor agree with the thought that violence and hatred prevail over a dialogue and conciliation’.
The current conflict between the Sphere of Gaza and Israel, although not the first one in history, is particularly dangerous in the context of the current destabilization of Arabian countries. Therefore the answer to the papal appeal for a constant prayer seems extremely necessary to the homeland of Jesus.