Sacred stones smashed in Holy Land

 (we reported this story on Tuesday, but Joe Donnelly from Caritas Internationalis has sent in further details) Aboud is a West Bank village, about one hour from Jerusalem, and 35 kilometres northwest of Ramallah. It is home to some 2,300 Palestinians, about 50% Muslim and 50% Christian, both Catholic and Orthodox. It is an extremely simple village, not desperately poor, but living with the hardships of a politically and economically unstable environment. From all outwards signs it is an unusually peaceful place. The quiet I experienced there one week ago while visiting the Caritas health clinic, parish school, church, and community is exactly the quiet I experienced there almost a decade ago, the first time I visited. According to the Lay Committee of the Holy Land, on Friday, 31 May 2002, the traditional Feast of the Visitation in the Holy Land, Israeli army jeeps drove up to the top of a hill in Aboud. Two hours later an explosion was heard. Amidst the darkness, local Palestinians were uncertain what had happened. The ancient grave of St Barbara, located in a hillside cave, had exploded, while the adjacent Orthodox church, where people went to light candles, had been destroyed. Israel offered official apologies indicating that they did not know it was a church. St Barbara has always been alive in the history and folklore of Palestinian society in the area. The site is always pointed out to visitors to Aboud and, with time permitting, a respectful tour given. Her feast day is even remembered with a special dessert. The Secours Catholique (Caritas France) team which is developing the West Bank Nutritional Programme through an ECHO grant, was in the village only the day before and is scheduled to bring a food relief convoy there in the coming week. Caritas doctors and medical assistants travel to Aboud every week. Patriarch Sabbah had only been there one week before to celebrate the First Communion of the parish children. Recently, the Latin parish priest, Fr Aziz Halaweh, had sculpted a pulpit from olive trees previously uprooted by Israeli soldiers. Caritas Jerusalem maintains a steadfast solidarity with this native Palestinian community in Aboud, as do so many Caritas partners from around the world.

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