10/28/2021, 13.44
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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Churches against Israel cancelling a festival at Abraham’s House in Jerusalem

For Israeli Minister Omer Bar-Lev, the event had direct links with the Palestinian Authority. In reality, the three-day festival was supported by France and Austria as part of a UN programme. For Catholic leaders, the cancellation is a "harsh, unjustifiable decision”. Meanwhile, Muslims continue to protest over the demolition of part of the Islamic al- Yusufiyah cemetery.

 

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – In Jerusalem, Catholic Church leaders of the Holy Land and the Israeli government are once more at odd with each other. This time Beit Ibrahim or Abraham’s House, in East Jerusalem, is at the centre of a controversy.

For more than 50 years, the famous guest house has been a point of reference for culture and hospitality in the holy city, but Israeli authorities suddenly cancelled its latest event over alleged direct links with the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian organisations.

Located close to the Mount of Olives in Ras al-Amud, a neighbourhood in East Jerusalem that faces the old city, it was established after Pope Paul VI’s visit in 1964, and has welcomed individual visitors, families, and groups from all backgrounds and origins seeking a fraternal and spiritual climate in the Holy Land.

Managed by Secours Catholique-Caritas France, it seeks as one of its primary objectives to encourage exchanges between those who work for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.

In spite of the change in leadership in Israel, with the fall of Benjamin Netanyahu after a decade in power, and the rise of a new government led by Naftali Bennett, decisions regarding Israeli politics and settlements have not changed as evinced by the recent decision to build new housing in Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

What is more, Israel has designated six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organisations, prompting criticism even from the United States and the United Nations.

Likewise, part of the Muslim cemetery of al-Yusufiyah near the city’s eastern walls was demolished with the graves exposed to make room for a biblical-themed park and path. For Israelis the graveyard is an "informal" and expendable burial place; for Muslims it is one of their oldest cemeteries. Now many fear that it could spark more violence, like in Sheikh Jarrah.

it appears that Israeli authorities are causing tensions with the Christians of the Holy Land, who are increasingly concerned over the fate of Jerusalem. Instead of being an inclusive place for everyone, the city is increasingly becoming a source of divisions.

The three-day festival scheduled at Beit Ibrahim included cultural exhibitions and events with the support of the governments of Austria and France through the United Nations Development Programme.

For Israel’s Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, the event was directly linked to the Palestinian Authority, so it had to be cancelled. The government took that decision on Tuesday, and so Israeli police moved in.

Local sources report that this is not an isolated incident but is part of a pattern whereby Israeli police block, sometimes with force, Palestinian recreational, cultural and festive events and initiatives, such as a football tournament between families in the Old City, book launches, children’s festivals, a Women's Day event.

Reacting to the minister's decision, the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land expressed concern and disapproval over the cancellation of the cultural event, calling it a “harsh unjustifiable decision”.

in its press release, the Assembly notes that “In Jerusalem, we are assisting to continuous more aggressive and repressive attitude from the Israeli local authorities towards all what is considered Palestinian, as if the Palestinians do not have right of expression in the Holy City”. Instead, Jerusalem ought to “be opened to everybody equally”.

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