Violence is Rampant in the Holy Land

Jerusalem at the Center of the Conflict

Threat to Christians
Conflict in Jerusalem © Fides

Violence is rampant in the Holy Land with Jerusalem at the center, according to Father Ibrahim Faltas.

“We have already seen and said it a hundred times: when you touch Jerusalem, violence, and pain inevitably spread, overwhelming everyone. The center of the conflict, as always, is the Holy City: And as St. John Paul II recognized, until there is peace in Jerusalem, there will be no peace in the rest of the world”.

This is what Father Ibrahim Faltas, Franciscan priest of the Custody of the Holy Land repeats to Agenzia Fides, recalling the mysterious link that unites the fate of Jerusalem to that of peace throughout the world. From the heart of the Old City, the Egyptian friar follows with apprehension, marked by a shadow of resignation, the new wave of violence that is spreading in the Holy Land and that threatens to hit the entire Middle East. Father Ibrahim has always closely followed the difficult phases of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in 2002 he personally participated in the event of the armed siege by the Israeli army of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where Palestinian militiamen had taken refuge. The Franciscan, who was also present in the besieged Basilica, contributed significantly as a mediator in the negotiations that led to the end of the bloodless siege.

With his long experience, he has learned to grasp the signs that announce new storms: “For a month”, Father Faltas points out in a conversation with Fides, “initiatives and events have been taking place aimed at increasing tension around Jerusalem. It was foreseeable that the situation would get worse. The seriousness of the ongoing conflict has not been seen for a long time: violence and clashes are rampant not only in the Palestinian Territories but also in Jaffa, Ramla, Haifa, Akko. Lod… “. The escalation of the conflict, marked by the launch of rockets by Hamas on Israeli territory and by Israeli military reprisals against the Gaza Strip, risks taking on unpredictable magnitude and evolution.

But the root – Father Ibrahim insists – is easily recognizable, and is always the same: “In these days I had in my hands a book from 1986, which described situations and facts that are the same as today: the clashes at the Damascus Gate, and military raids on Temple Mount… You touch the sensitive nerve when you want to blow everything up. And here everyone knows that the key to peace and war is Jerusalem”. That is why – adds the priest of the Custody of the Holy Land – any authentic attempt to untie the knots of conflict must start from the recognition of the unique and incomparable nature of the Holy City. “Jerusalem” underlines Father Ibrahim “is not a city like the others. It is not twinned with any other urban center, because by definition it does not have, cannot have ‘twin’ cities. And it can never be the city of a party, of a single state, of a single religious group. All attempts to eliminate the factors of its plural identity through the policies of fait accompli, carried out even in a brutal way, disfigure it, and in any case, are doomed to fail. Jerusalem is the mother city of all; it will always be at the heart of the three Abrahamic faith communities. And the only way to solve the problems will be to deal with them at the negotiating table, without removing anything, and with the necessary involvement of the international community that cannot continue to be absent and turn its back, every time violence breaks out in Jerusalem and from there it spreads all over the world”.