Hear the Easter message of a true Christian, Gaza’s courageous Father Manuel Musallam delivers a blistering attack on Israel’s occupation and its rape of the holy sites, and a damning indictment of the silence of the cowards in the West.
“We Christians of Palestine have been under occupation for many long years. We’ve been suffering with bitterness at being kept away from the Holy Sites. We’ve been denied our right to worship in Jerusalem. Many Christian generations have never been able to reach Jerusalem to visit its holy places.
The occupation has been continuously imposing unlawful obstacles. This year, we are confronted by the Israeli Apartheid Separation Wall, checkpoints and roadblocks guarded by Israeli soldiers denying us movement and access to Jerusalem.
All these measures not only suffocate the Palestinian people, but also asphyxiate peace in Israel and Palestine.
Every stone built in the Apartheid Wall, every axe strike digging under the Al-Aqsa Mosque and every house destroyed by Israel will increase the intensity of resistance and resentfulness. However, cooperation with Palestinians will give Israel the hope for a future, dominated by serenity and peacefulness.
We lament Jerusalem, and miss its beautiful ceremonies. This year thousands of tourists will weep with us. They will not be able to march the “Way of the Cross” with Palestinians. There will be no national Palestinian folklore to discover or Arab religious crafts to take with them as gifts, and no local prayers, hymns and music to experience in the warm faith of believers in Palestine. They will be shocked entering the Holy Sepulchre to find Israeli police inside.
We do not foresee any political settlement, or an end to occupation, or hope for the return of Palestinian refugees, or the forming of our state with Jerusalem as its capital, or the right to self-determination, or the liberation of thousands of prisoners, free access and movement, an end to Gaza siege, and the dismantling of the Apartheid Wall around Jerusalem.
We are appalled by the continuous threats of more war. And we are distressed by the daily humiliation, hunger, thirst, unemployment and the absence of sustainable development in our country.
Jerusalem was the city of God, peace and prayer, but has been converted into a city of man, war and hatred. Instead of becoming the key to the doors of heaven, it has become a key to war and blood.
Jerusalem is ours. It is not a disputed land. We are not soliciting to share the legacy and heritage of Jerusalem with Israel or with anyone else.
We do not accept the speech of Israeli leaders that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that building in it is no different from building in Tel Aviv. Occupation is a sin and a form of terrorism, and when relying on the texts of the Torah to kill people or expel and remove them from their land it rises to the level of a crime against humanity. All perpetrators should be judged by the International Criminal Court before being judged by the just court of God.
A long time ago the Zionist Jewish leader Theodore Herzl said: “If one day we recover Jerusalem and I am still able to do anything when we do so, my first action will be to cleanse it thoroughly. I will remove everything that is not holy and burn the monuments that are centuries old.”
Israel has devastated and tortured us in their many wars. We ask you to see the wounds of innocent Palestinian people and to be compassionate towards the Palestinian holocaust that you witness with your own eyes and touch with your own hands, and to know those who perpetrated this crime against our children. Search with us for justice that is the mother of peace. Protect us and safeguard our Holy Sites.
Our people in Gaza are treated like animals in a zoo. They eat but remain hungry; they cry, but no one wipes their tears. There is no water, no electricity, no food, only fear, terror and blockade… Our children are living in a state of trauma and fear. They are sick from it and for other reasons such as malnutrition, poverty and the cold… The hospitals did not have basic first aid before the war and now thousands of wounded and sick are pouring in and they are performing operations in the corridors.
The situation is frightening and sad.”
Fr Manuel Musallam recently retired at the age of 71 after serving as the parish priest of the Holy Family Church in Gaza for 14 years. For most of that time the Israelis would not allow him to visit his family and friends in the West Bank. So, in spite of failing health, he soldiered on through the devastating siege and the murderous blitzkrieg.
Is anyone listening?
Wimpish churchmen and politicians in the West would wet their pants at the very thought of speaking plainly against Zionist lawlessness and cruelty the way Fr Manuel does, which is why the Holy Land is such an unholy mess. Their inaction ensures that nothing changes for the better. Indeed, the situation gets progressively worse. Some will no doubt be muttering, “Will nobody rid us of the turbulent priest?” as did King Henry II in 1170, referring to Thomas Becket who rebelled against his unjust reforms.
But we need many more good and turbulent priests. They inspire. They might even succeed in goading the cowardly international community to action. Meanwhile, it seems God still has work for Fr Manuel, even in retirement.