03/28/2024, 11.35
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Gaza, Bishop Nahra: Silence weapons to heal divisions in Israel

by Dario Salvi

The conflict with Hamas and the question of hostages is one of the "sensitive issues", but not the only one. From Jerusalem - the day after Pope Francis' letter to the Christians of the Holy Land - the patriarchal vicar for Israel recalls the tensions surrounding military service for the ultra-Orthodox, violence in Arab society, and growing anti-Semitism abroad. Political isolation also adds "suffering upon suffering". "As Christians we avoid being drawn into hate speech".


Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Hopes for a "solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which the Church has been calling for "for years and well before" the outbreak of the last bloody war in Gaza, so that both sides can "live with dignity" knowing that "no it's possible to continue like this," accompany Msgr. Rafic Nahra, auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem and since 2021 patriarchal vicar for Israel, this Holy Week.

He continues that it is not conceivable to further prolong a situation in which "Palestinians have no autonomy, feel locked in prison and see their dignity denied". "We need agreements of a political nature - he explains on the phone to AsiaNews - which are difficult to find today" in a context of conflict.

“However - he continues - Jews and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis must reach a solution that allows them to remain next to each other, in safety, and it is necessary to heal the divisions and tensions within Israeli society itself at the same time”.

Israel and its components, explains the prelate, are experiencing a "very complex" phase characterized by "contradictory interests". Living within the borders of the country, he continues, "you feel this great tension" which is also reflected in the daily clash "between those who call for war until the end, for victory over Hamas" and others who "instead look at the lives of children, hostages and their families".

How many believe that "the priority" is the liberation of civilians (and others) who have been in the hands of the movement that controls the Strip for months, even before the success on a military level and all this "creates a very strong division."

Amidst tensions and divisions, Catholics, as Pope Francis underlined yesterday in his Easter letter to the community of the Holy Land, are a source of example because they know how to "hope against all hope".

Thanking them for their testimony of faith and charity, the pontiff renews his "fatherly affection" to those "who are suffering most painfully from the absurd drama of war". Starting from the children who are "denied" the future and those who are "crying and in pain" up to experiencing first-hand feelings of "anguish and bewilderment".

Thinking back to the pilgrimage made in 2014 and taking up the words of Saint Paul VI, the first pilgrim Pope to Jerusalem, he recalls how "the state of tension" in the Middle East is a "serious and constant danger" not only for those peoples, but for the whole world. However, the ability of Christians "to rise again" is stronger than the "useless madness of war", because they are "seeds of good in a land torn by conflict".

The pontiff's words reflect the drama of two peoples, the Israeli and the Palestinian, who pay an enormous tribute in blood every day. “Since the beginning of the war [response to the Hamas terrorist attack on 7 October] the situation in the country has been very difficult. I usually reside in the north, in Nazareth - says Msgr. Nahra - where life seems to continue, but everything has become much more expensive, the economic situation is increasingly difficult and people feel this strongly". The conflict "also influences relations between communities of Arabs and Israelis, Jews and Muslims, and Christians themselves.

Then there is the specific drama of Gaza and that of the families of the hostages, which causes suffering and mistrust between communities, all aspects connected to each other".

Finally, concern for those exposed on the northern front, on the border with Lebanon, where "tens of thousands of people have left their homes because they do not feel protected, and do not want to return. Continuous violence, a very serious problem and we don't know how to deal with it."

The prelate underlines the "divisions" in Israeli society on which the conflict is based, ending up "exacerbating fragmentation" and creating a "very difficult situation", also because "the lives of many people are at stake".

That of the hostages is a "sensitive issue, but not the only one: there is tension - he continues - on military service between the ultra-Orthodox and civil society" because for many "it is not normal that a part of the country [the Haredi]" does not must answer the call to the army. Again the theme of "violence in Arab society or the high cost of living that affects more and more families".

At an international level there is "an increase in anti-Semitism as a consequence of the war", combined with a "sense of isolation which is also political" which "adds suffering to suffering" and "in the long term will not lead to peace".

Finally, the issue of violence "against Christians" at the hands of the radical and extremist Jewish wing, which the government had only recently begun to address but which the conflict in Gaza ended up obscuring.

“Christians too - he warns - share everyone's suffering and as a Church we do not intend to take a political position, but only to call for a ceasefire to rebuild what has been destroyed and resolve the problem of he hostages."

“We must avoid - concludes the bishop - being carried away by these hateful speeches and try to encourage a life in common, in a spirit of mutual respect which leads to not reducing others to ideology. And I say to Christians in the West to pray for us, to stay close to us and not to be carried away by fear."

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