Updated: May 7, 2019
Christ is Risen! I pray that the Lord is revealing his Risen Presence to you and transforming you into his joy and audacity during this Easter season. The March and Holy Week pilgrimages, although brief, were so blessed. I've also been able to send some young American enthusiasm into the Bet Rachel project for Hebrew-speaking children of Christian refugee/migrant/immigrant Christians in Jerusalem.
Emmaus has had a steady stream of house guests, group meals, so many pilgrim celebrations of Holy Mass, and many Jewish groups and friends. We completed sound renovations in our museum and dining room this spring, and we installed a handicap restroom.
Today the month of Ramadan began and Muslims will be fasting during the day and partying at night. I took one of our cars to change the gas filter the other day and Talal, our Muslim mechanic, insisted I and an Israeli customer sit down with him for kebab, as it would soon be time to fast. Luckily, I'd brought him a pot of our homemade marmalade, so I was ready to return the favor. Ironically, Talal gave me a whole explanation of how he needed to finish work by 5pm because of Holocaust Day, and he asked me if I knew about the Holocaust, and briefly told me of the horrors.
The next day, I was the lone Catholic representative (kind of sad!) in the Holocaust remembrance ceremony the other day, a moment when a siren calls the whole country to a stand-still for a minute--even on the highways. Then the Prime Minister and 80 other representatives lay their crown of remembrance. I was number 73. At the reception following the ceremony, an Israeli began talking with me, and explained that he had quit the corporate world a week before to begin a less self-serving job at the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem. He expressed his joy at seeing a few non-Jews present along with his sadness that there were no Arabs. I told him about Talal, and he exclaimed, "I've got to meet him!"
This Wednesday is Memorial Day, followed by Independence Day on Thursday, when all the Israelis will be out BBQing. Here's the video of last year's show in Jerusalem--just amazing, try it at around 36min.
This time of year, tensions ride higher. Some of you may have heard news about more missiles across the Gaza border. I updated the safety page of our website to say, in short, that this is nothing new.
Blessed American that I am, I long for the day when I'll be able to share a solidarity with one of the many places and times in our world that suffers through persecution, war, famine, or other disasters. If this happens here, I'll be sad that the pilgrims might dwindle in number, but so glad to have my visa and my assignment here to stay and be an encouragement to the locals. Pray for the people in Gaza who are ruled by terrorist factions! Let us also pray for the Yemenites, who seem to be the worst victims in the Middle East today.
And this week, in addition to remembering the victims of the Holocaust and the fallen soldiers of the many wars that established this land of religious freedom and economic prosperity, we also remember so many Arab-speakers who were displaced to Gaza and elsewhere.
We have a huge, amazing national park outside our gates that will be full of picnickers this week. Within the park are the ruins of three Palestinian villages, including Amwas (Emmaus) that were evacuated (many to Gaza) and annihilated just after the Six-Day War in 1967. I go running in the park every couple of days, and I think about those who left their homes behind. Every once in a while on the street in Jerusalem, one of them recognizes our community's habit and catches me and reminisces with me about his parents' or grandparents' house or business in Amwas.
Let us give thanks for our homes, our churches, and our jobs, and this week, let us remember the victims and the heroes among Israelis and Palestinians. If you'd like a glimpse of Gaza, I recommend the movie: When Pigs have Wings.
Thanks again to you who have been generous with our ministry and with the Lord. Here is our giving page, if you'd like to consider alms or a tithe for this vibrant and efficient center of prayer, encounter, and hospitality in the Middle East!
In His grip,
Fr. Anthony of the Transfiguration, CB