Reflections from Palestine with Sister Bridget Tighe

Our friend and partner, Sister Bridget Tighe, is General Director of Caritas Jerusalem. In the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic and as the possibility of the annexation of parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories draws closer, she sent us these reflections.

I’ve just returned from Ramallah where, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, Caritas Jerusalem provides home delivery of nutritious meals to more than 50 elderly people who live alone. I observed the professionalism of the staff and volunteers and accompanied those delivering the meals to some of these lovely senior citizens, Christians and Muslims. I noticed the ease with which young and old relate to one another and how important the freshly cooked food is for these vulnerable people.  

While I was with the elderly our social worker was meeting failed asylum seekers who had found their way to Europe in search of a better life only to be refused residence and returned to Palestine. The social worker is like a mother to these traumatised young men who have no family in the West Bank. She befriends them, advises them, encourages them and, in most cases, sees them gradually regain confidence and begin again. 

On our way back to Jerusalem, the ever-expanding Israeli settlements were visible and we passed flashpoints where Palestinian youth regularly clash with Israeli soldiers. At a checkpoint a heavily armed young Israeli female soldier smiled and waved us on. We had permission that allowed us to travel between Jerusalem and the West Bank, while none of the people I had met in Ramallah could move beyond the separation barrier.

The day’s experience, that was no more than a regular field visit, led me into deep reflection on the imminent threat of illegal annexation of parts of the West Bank, the injustice and consequences of on-going occupation, the contrast between the armed young Israelis and the dispossessed young Palestinians, and the complex relationships and interactions between the people of the Holy Land, Israelis and Palestinians. A feeling of helplessness overwhelmed me and all I could do was pray.

I believe that a just and peaceful solution to the conflict can be achieved if both parties have the will and strong, ethical leadership to pursue it, combined with unbiased international support.

Lord Jesus, you walked this Land, you know its rugged beauty, its mountains and valleys. Give to the peoples who claim it as their heritage the courage, generosity and confidence to share it, and the strength and commitment to live in peace: two peoples in one Holy Land.

During the Covid-19 crisis, many frontline specialist doctors and nurses working in Israeli hospitals were Palestinians, and some lost their lives to the virus. People were conscious of their common humanity with its vulnerabilities and interdependence; the virus did not recognise separation walls and checkpoints nor distinguish between Israeli and Palestinian. 

Lord Jesus, during your earthly life in Palestine you healed the sick, touched the lepers and allowed the “unclean” to touch your garments.  Deepen both peoples’ awareness of their common humanity and give them the strength and courage to transcend their differences and live in peace.

Young Israeli soldiers, many in their late teens and early 20s armed with powerful machine guns are often scared, seeing every Palestinian as a potential terrorist. They have the power to control elderly Palestinian men and women, schoolchildren passing through checkpoints daily on their way to school, and Palestinian youth of their own age. This combination of fear and power can lead to tragic consequences generating more fear and anger.  In the first letter of John, 4:18, we read that in love there is no fear but perfect love drives out fear.

Lord Jesus protect these young Israeli army recruits from the psychological damage the unnatural situation in which they are placed can cause. Grant them inner security and ability to trust others, the prerequisites for, and fruit of, a just and lasting peace.

When young Palestinians are asked about their dream for the future, what they want, many say they have no dreams, no hope, they live for today because they see no tomorrow.  Highly qualified graduates work as waiters, construction labourers, cleaners, just to earn a living.  In the Gospel when Jesus asked the blind Bartimaeus in Jericho what he wanted he replied “Lord that I may see”.       

Lord Jesus restore to Palestinian youth faith in the goodness of humanity, and hope with vision for a future where they can live normal lives in freedom, dignity and peace.

Amen. 

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