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“Let me say, “Peace be within you.”” (Psalm 121:8)

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

It began on October 7th, Feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary. During the Office of Lauds and the Eucharist, the alarm sounded almost continuously over Jerusalem... until about noon. The muffled sounds of rockets being destroyed by the Iron Dome made us realise that it was an attack.

The surprise was total. It was a serious and surprising event: an attack on Jerusalem!

On the last day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the joyful songs of the holiday suddenly gave way to the sounds of war. Rarer alarms sounded in the following days: in those moments, everyone remained in their place, motionless, silent, praying and waiting.

Jerusalem came to a standstill, as if on a long Shabbat: shops closed, schools closed, tourists and pilgrims suddenly disappeared, few people in the streets, the muffled noise of military planes entering and leaving the Gaza Strip, carrying out heavy reprisals.

Our city is “protected” by numerous checkpoints against the “enemy” who has poured into Israel and against those who would like to join them.

The Palestinian Territories are isolated, no one can enter or leave, many workers are severely penalised for not being able to reach their daily work from Bethlehem or Jericho...

The attacks are carried out by isolated individuals. Yesterday, against the police station near the post office where we pick up our mail, today against an ordinary Jewish passer-by, or in reaction to stone-throwing by Palestinian youths...

The government of the Palestinians in Gaza has carried out a terrible attack against Jews living near their territory, and Palestinians in other areas could or are trying to do the same: when night falls in our Palestinian neighbourhood, we hear demonstrations and gunshots from beyond our walls... It’s not the first time. But this year’s experience has given us tear gas canisters: we had never seen before these small grenades that we collect in the morning in the cloister and in the garden. Our knowledge is expanding, after the whole firecracker cartridges, the bullet casings and the stinking water...

We learned of the attacks on Jewish communities near the Gaza Strip, with the unimaginable murders, the wounded, the hostages and too many dead... and we are equally filled with compassion for the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip subjected to intense bombing, blockade and mass exodus. Our heart is with the small Christian community that takes refuge in the school and in the church, with its few nuns and seminarians, and even some Muslims.

However, we have been preparing for the celebration of the Holy Mother, with the 150th anniversary of our foundation, and the silver Jubilee of our Sister Helene. The monastery and its nuns have gone through many periods of hostility and have lived under different authorities, Ottoman, Jordanian, British... Today, these authorities are Israeli, although our Old City and Mount of Olives neighbourhood, with its Palestinian population, remains the “disputed, occupied, annexed” area of East Jerusalem.

Our Carmelites in Bethlehem, Nazareth and Haifa are also under attack from the Gaza Strip, and now also from southern Lebanon, which is opposite and very close to Mount Carmel. We stand in solidarity... Embassies offer us repatriation, but of course it is not a question of leaving!

For our monastery it is the time of the olive harvest, a tiring but serene and joyful moment. Prayer is the order of the day. The tension is palpable. Each od us must fight against this tension. The joyful evening recreation highlights its fruits.

Let us live with the peoples of the Holy Land, with their ups and downs, in our own small way, let us pray for the peace and justice of today and tomorrow. This war proves that walls and other constraints or surveillance are useless in the long run. Only justice and respect can lead to peace, difficult but lasting. Every day we are able to gather the seeds through extraordinary people, both Jewish and Palestinian.

For the Christians of the Holy Land, Tuesday, October 17th, was a day of fasting and prayer for reconciliation “for God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33). Friday October 27th, Pope Francis invited the Christians and believers, and all those who care for peace in the world, to join a second day of fasting, prayer and penance, to beg for peace.

Thank you for joining your prayers to ours, for those who suffer, those who decide, those who fight… may they remain in what they do and how they think: human beings.

May God grant Peace to this country He chose to be His, and to this world He loved so much!

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