In October, during an AFEDJ Board visit to a number of the Diocese of Jerusalem institutions, I was moved to see that a common thread among them was the living out of our baptismal vow “to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.” All people are served, no matter their ethnicity, religion, ability or disability, or economic means. All are given treatment, advice, or education, and more importantly, each person is treated with dignity, respect, and open arms offering the love of Christ to all people.
That respect and sensitivity were evident at the medical institutions in their programs to empower people to become part of their own or their children’s education, healing, and therapy. At Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, a nutritionist works with the parents of more than 200 underweight children to devise the most nutritious meal plan possible within the family’s budget, and women are taught to do self-exams for early detection of breast cancer. At the Princess Basma Center in Jerusalem mothers learn to perform physical and other therapies to help their children with disabilities.
The medical institutions also serve families by helping them with the transportation challenges of the region. St. Luke’s Hospital in Nablus and the Jofeh Community Center near the Dead Sea offer satellite or mobile treatment options so people may benefit from medical tests, therapy, and obstetric care when it is impossible to travel far from home.
Sermon by the Rev. Matthew Dayton-Welch
November 18, 2018
Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church, Newtown Square
As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”
We left early in the morning, just as the sun was beginning to peak over the Mount of Olives and beam down iridescent orange on to the parking lot of St. George’s College in East Jerusalem. We knew it would take us about two hours to get to Erez Checkpoint, and then God knows how long once we got there. We sat in the bus, largely in silence. The board of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem had overnight shrunk by half, it seemed, as eight of my colleagues came down with food poisoning; the rest of us felt eerily unprepared.
I had been to the Gaza border before, but I had never made it in. In that sense, Gaza was this mythical place for me, a strip of land on the Mediterranean coast about 100 square miles in livable land occupied by about two million people who cannot get out. In 2006, the people there elected the terrorist organization, Hamas, to govern them, and since then the place has been the epicenter of one of the worst quagmires the modern world has known—the world’s largest open-air prison—and a perpetual humanitarian disaster.
Israel built a checkpoint called Erez on the northern border with Gaza, and they built it with the intention that it would handle a fairly large volume of day traffic, so it looks a bit like an airport terminal. But the day we visited, it seemed like we were the only ones there, and the terminal now had this post-apocalyptic vibe. We walked into a large glass hall and called out for someone to instruct us, and eventually someone did—“go through that gate there”—and the process began.
by the Rev. Dr. Ann J. Broomell
The first time I traveled to Jerusalem was in 2004 with a group of other clergy and spouses. The trip was planned to be a mix of visiting the holy sites and learning some of the life of people living on the West Bank. We toured Jerusalem, the Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, Capernaum. I was deeply moved to look over the Sea of Galilee from the hillside where Jesus had preached, to touch the rock on which we believe he was crucified. We also visited the Arab Evangelical School in Ramallah, a ministry of the Diocese of Jerusalem that AFEDJ trustees visited again in October.
On that first visit we saw an end of the year Science Fair and Art Show. As is the norm in Science Fairs most everywhere, we saw posters of the blood flow in and out of the heart and projects on magnetic fields. The Art Show brought me up short. In the midst of drawings of flowers and hillsides of olive trees, there were drawings of soldiers with guns and the dividing wall that was just then being built.
Towards the end of that visit we met with the principal and academic staff of the school. It was a time of young Palestinian suicide bombers. I have carried in my heart since that day the conversation during which we asked about the well-being of the children. We were told that many were depressed, and one of the main goals of the school was to prevent them from losing hope and committing suicide. Sadly, we knew what they meant with those words.
by the Rev. Cn. Nicholas T. Porter
Our first morning in Jerusalem began with a visit to St. George’s School. The sprawling school is an integral part of the St. George’s Cathedral Close, and the sound of students announces the arrival of each new day. It is a celebrated school with many illustrious alumni; it is a school that bares the scars of occupation and conflict; and it is a school with a vital mission to young men.
The first classrooms that we saw were filled with lower school girls and boys. The spaces were bright and the teachers eager. Seeing young children happily studying and playing filled our hearts with warmth and hope.
The contrast to the lower school could not have been greater. “What is going on here?,” several board members asked. My heart, too, filled with doubt. When we exited the school, I was glad to escape.Our tour eventually took us across the street to the all-boys high school, which, until recently, was all-boys. An eloquent introduction by the new principal and a lively conversation with a group of promising seniors were muted by the presence of hefty hall monitors and rowdy behavior in the classrooms.
Then against my will, I felt my heart strangely warming as I began to recognize a greater truth – the truth about the difficult and vital work of boys’ education in East Jerusalem.
by Barbara Boehm
I stood at the top of the tall stairs, off to one side, looking down as the students climbed from the playground and garden up to the dining room. In the press of the crowd, one boy had to work very hard—he had braces on each leg, and he grabbed the handrail as he pulled himself up, step by step. It wasn’t his struggle that caught my eye; rather it was his raw determination, athletic yes, even balletic! An older student stayed by his side, protecting, encouraging. This was a most remarkable pas de deux.
In a gentle whisper, the man next to me recounted how this boy had been found during a field visit to the local community. He had been in a wheelchair, utterly unable to stand. His family had no hope of help until an offer was extended for him to come to the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf. Within months of his arrival, this remarkable boy was climbing a flight of stairs, helped by a proud and loyal friend.
Sometimes the gospel readings about Jesus’ healing ministry have sounded to me like tall tales from long ago. Not anymore. The story is still being written, every day, in the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.
Barbara Boehm is an AFEDJ trustee from Montclair, New Jersey.