10/16/2023, 17.22
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Carmelites in Jerusalem pray for the two peoples in conflict

by Carmelite nuns of the Pater Noster Monastery

From their cloister on the Mount of Olives, where, according to an ancient Christian tradition, Jesus taught the Pater Noster, the nuns bear witness to recent events, hearing “protests and gunfire outside our walls” and collect “tear gas canisters in the cloister”. For them, “Only justice and respect can lead to peace, hard [to achieve] but lasting. Day after day, we are given the opportunity to grasp the seeds of this through remarkable people, both Jewish and Palestinian.”

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Carmelite nuns of the Pater Noster Monastery in Jerusalem – who have dedicated their life to seclusion and prayer – published a letter following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas.

We live with our peoples of the Holy Land, in good times and in bad times. In our small way, we pray for peace and justice, today and tomorrow,” they write.

The monastery is located in one of the fault lines between the two peoples who are once again fighting each other, sowing death, pain and destruction.

According to an ancient Christian tradition, it is here, on the Mount of Olives that Jesus taught his prayer, the Pater Noster, and words on forgiveness. The area is now within Arab East Jerusalem, where tensions are running high.

Below is the letter the Carmelites of the Pater Noster Monastery sent to their friends at this painful moment in history for the Holy Land. By looking at things through their words, we invite everyone to take part in tomorrow’s Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace called for by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Our Lady of the Rosary: during the Office of Lauds and the Eucharist, tis Saturday morning, 7 October, the alarm sounded almost continuously over Jerusalem... until about noon. We heard muffled sounds, the destruction of rockets by the Iron Dome, we realised that it was an attack. Total surprise. This is serious and astounds us: an attack on Jerusalem!

We south information and found out the brutal fact that Israel was at war, without warning, on the last day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot; the joyous festive songs brutally gave way to the noise of war.

Fewer alarms sounded in the following days: at such moments, each one of us stays put, motionless, in silence, praying, waiting.

Jerusalem was at a standstill, like on a Sabbath: shops closed, schools closed, tourists and pilgrims suddenly gone, few people in the streets. We heard the sound of fighter planes coming and going from carrying out heavy reprisals in the Gaza Strip. Our city is "protected" by many checkpoints against the "enemy" that has poured into Israel and those who would like to join them.

The Palestinian territories are cordoned off; no one can leave or enter. Many [Palestinian] workers are badly penalised because they cannot come to work from Bethlehem or Jericho.

Some individuals have carried out some isolated attack. One took place yesterday against the police station next to the post office where we collect our mail; today it is against ordinary Jewish passers-by, or in reaction to the throwing of stones by young Palestinians...

The government of the Palestinians in Gaza has carried out a terrible attack against Jews living near their territory, Palestinians from other areas could or are trying to imitate them. When night comes, in our Palestinian neighbourhood, we hear protests and gunfire outside our walls...

This is not the first time. But this year, we have been rewarded with tear gas canisters. We have never before seen these little grenades, which we collect in the morning in the cloister and the garden: our knowledge is broadening, with whole firecracker cartridges, bullet casings and skunk.[i]

We have learnt of the attacks on Jewish communities near the Gaza Strip, with unthinkable murders, the wounded, the hostages, and too many deaths ... We are equally filled with compassion for the people of the Gaza Strip who are subjected to intensive bombings, blockade and mass exodus. Our hearts reach out to the small Christian community [in Gaza] sheltering in the school and the church with its few nuns and seminarians, and a few Muslims.

Still, we are getting ready to celebrate Our Lady this Sunday, the 150th anniversary of our foundation. The monastery and its Sisters have gone through many periods of hostilities, and lived under various authorities: Ottoman, British, Jordanian ... now Israeli, even though our neighbourhood in the Old City and the Mount of Olives, with its Palestinian population, remain the "disputed, occupied, annexed" part of East Jerusalem.

Our Carmelite monasteries in Bethlehem, Nazareth and Haifa are also on alert. Attack is coming from the Gaza Strip, but now also from southern Lebanon, which is very close to Mount Carmel. We stand together... Embassies offer to repatriate us, but of course, there is no question of leaving!

We live with our peoples of the Holy Land, in good times and in bad times. In our small way, we pray for peace and justice, today and tomorrow.

This war shows that walls and other constraints or surveillance are useless in the long run. Only justice and respect can lead to peace, hard [to achieve] but lasting. Day after day, we are given the opportunity to grasp the seeds of this through remarkable people, both Jewish and Palestinian.

For our monastery, it is the time of olive picking, a time of toil, but peaceful and joyful; praying is expected, and tensions are palpable [. . .].

Thank you to the whole Order for the communion of prayer on behalf of those who suffer and those who decide, and those who also fight... on both sides – may they remain human . . .

This Tuesday, 17 October, will be a day of fasting and prayer for reconciliation for the Christians of the Holy Land “since he is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). We invite you, brothers and sisters, to join in our prayer, that the Lord may truly grant us his peace!

[i] A bad-smelling, non-lethal liquid used for crowd control.

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See also
Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
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