Greetings as the awful situation here continues without light at the end of the tunnel.
Bethlehem University is closed today as part of the Palestine-wide General Strike in protest at the ongoing killing in Gaza.
This interrupts our end of summer school exams as well as our entrance exams for the coming year, but in comparison with what the people in Gaza are going through this inconvenience is insignificant! I am not really sure what picture you are getting of what is happening here, but from some of the reports I have received, it seems there is a rather biased portrayal of the situation.
Father Ray Webb, a diocesan priest from Chicago who has been teaching in our summer program for forty years, has continued to have close connections with people in Gaza. He was down there back in June and over the weekend was in touch with the Missionaries of Charity whom he visits in Gaza. I asked him to write something about the experience of these sisters as they care for the children and women in their place in order to provide another perspective.
“Seventy five minutes drive away from us in Bethlehem is the Gaza Strip, where there have been 500 casualties so far, including 483 Palestinians and 17 Israelis. It is estimated that more than 20% of the Palestinian dead are women and children while the majority of those killed are non-combatants. There are over 500 children who have been injured and 70 Palestinians died in the Shujaiyyeh [Shuja’iya] neighborhood of Gaza City on Sunday. Following Israeli warnings to abandon their homes, most seem to have been the victims of Israeli tank fire. (Where are they to go? United Nations schools are full of refugees; fleeing persons have also been killed.)
Next to the Shujaiyyeh neighborhood is the very old compact Zeitun neighborhood, the Gaza of more than 3,000 years of history. In Zeitun one finds Holy Family Catholic Church, the worship center for the 200 Catholics in Gaza. A part of the church compound is the convent of the Missionaries of Charity, the Sisters of Mother Teresa.
The Sisters have been in Gaza for more than 40 years and currently care for 30 developmentally disabled children and nine seniors in two facilities of several rooms each. For greater safety the 39 dependent persons and the four Sisters have moved into two first floor rooms adjacent to the church.
During a telephone call, we could hear the Israeli shelling of Shujaiyyeh in the background. Sister noted that one shell came very close to their house. Their location is well known to Israelis and Palestinians. Presumably tank fire is not completely controllable. Errant fire is a real threat.
In fact, some of the convent windows have broken and the building structures have been shaken. As you talk on the phone, you can hear the cries and even laughs of the children in the background. They are frightened by the noises but have no sense of what all this is about, except that it is danger. The Sisters pray that God will protect them.”
In the midst of all that is going on in Gaza there is growing unrest on the West Bank and the clashes between the Israeli military and Palestinians on the West Bank are becoming more violent. For most of last night it was possible to hear stun grenades and gunfire from Israeli soldiers as Palestinians protested down at Rachel’s Tomb, a few hundred metres from Bethlehem University.
We are not in danger at Bethlehem University, but we hope and pray for an end to the killing, the end of occupation, and the setting in place of a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Please keep the people of Gaza and us in your prayers.
Brother Peter Brother Peter Bray, FSC, EdD
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
Rue des Freres Bethlehem,
Gaza map (Google)
Mondoweiss Editors, ‘Massacre in Gaza: At least 60 killed in Shuja’iyeh, over 60,000 in UN shelters’, July 20, 2014
James North, ‘Look at Netanyahu’s ‘evidence’ that civilians are harboring rockets in Gaza’, July 20, 2014
Marrickville Friends of Bethlehem