I left Jordan for Palestine in 1984 to enroll in the Latin Patriarchal Seminary of Beit Jala which teaches students who graduate as priests of the Latin Patriarchate. In 1987, the year in which Michel Sabbah was named as the first Arab patriarch of Jerusalem, I had to sit for high school examination at a time when the Jordanian Ministry of Education was responsible for West Bank schools. The first uprising erupted and drew global interest at a time when the first-term examinations were interrupted with days of total lockdown declared by the Palestine Liberation Organization and other days during which we were allowed to sit for the examinations at Terra Sancta School in Bethlehem. Later, the results of the first semester were counted for the second semester according to the directives of His Majesty the late King Hussein Ibn Talal which enabled me to pursue my studies with the grace and care of God.
During the 1991 Gulf War, an unfair decision was taken to block entry of Palestinians to Jerusalem which included us, as students as we used to go to go there to pray. It was very painful for the Palestinian people and for every believer to see the entry to Jerusalem blocked, whereby access to the holy places for performing prayers was only allowed to a small number of people who were issued "disturbing" permits.
I left Palestine in 1995, and I worked for 26 years as a priest in Jordanian parishes and in Catholic media. But the permanent nostalgia is for Jerusalem, the sanctities, and the beloved Palestine. Hearing the news about all the popular uprisings as well as the continuous Israeli aggression on Gaza causes pain and intense concern and it is not as if one does not care about anything located afar or in a distant country. It is rather one who sees people one knows, streets and alleys one has walked in, and holy places where prayers were held.
That is why I am greatly pained nowadays when I see the traces of the aggression, the prevention of worshipers from going to the holy places, and the attack on Christian clergy in the streets of Jerusalem while they were heading towards the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. These actions indicate the short-sightedness of the occupation forces, and the fanaticism that allows the people who follow their religion to go to places of worship, while denying this right to Christians and Muslims.
As for Gaza, the pain has been great as well, especially when seeing children crying or being killed, or being sent to hospitals and clinics on Eid al-Fitr, instead of having fun and entertainment on this day. Numerous children of Gaza, who wore Eid clothes, were exhausted and spent the precious hours of Eid in emergency rooms. I also saw the Latin Parish Priest of the Holy Family Church in Gaza Fr. Gabriel Romanelli carry out his pastoral duty as a friend as well as a father of his Church and of the Christians in Gaza whose number does not exceed a thousand people, yet they provide humanitarian and cultural services to all citizens, through the Rosary Sisters School, which is considered one of the best schools in Gaza city.
I am here referring to the dear rosary sisters and to my cousin, the head of the nuns, Sister Martina Bader who visited her convent and school and found large cracks in the foundations of the house and the school as a large number of hate missiles fell in the vicinity. She has been working there for more than 17 years. Great appreciation and praise is conveyed to hear and to all of other nuns.
The language of missiles, war and aggression has fallen silent, and we hope that this situation will not be repeated. We implore the Almighty God and join all the sincere people who have gone out to the streets and squares of the world saying: No to injustice, no to aggression, no to brutality, no to the violence practised by the occupation forces towards the people Palestinian. We reiterate what His Holiness Pope Francis--who currently commemorates the 7th anniversary of his visit to Jordan and Palestine-- said when he visited Al-Aqsa Mosque: “Let us respect and love one another as brothers and sisters! Let us learn to understand the pain of the others! And let no one exploit the name of God to practise violence! Let us work together for justice and for peace!