Dear Friends and Supporters,
Over the last month, communities in the Holy Land have experienced rising number of COVID infections, which have threatened more closures and local lockdowns. Confirmed cases in Israel are now nearly three times the number recorded at the first peak in April. Although Israel has not imposed a full, nation-wide lockdown again, it has closed event halls and some dining establishments. The government has not asked for religious buildings to close, but many churches have opted to move back to online services. The Palestinian Authority imposed a lock-down earlier in the month.
As we have written before, the effect of lockdowns is particularly acute for Christians, for whom much of the community’s economy is dependent on pilgrimage. The renewed surge in cases, as well as continued high numbers in countries that send a lot of pilgrims, risks severe long-term harm to the economic prospects of Christians in the Holy Land.
Through the generous donations of people around the world, our Hope for the Holy Land Campaign will continue to provide financial assistance to Christian families and businesses facing economic hardship due to the pandemic. A Christian restaurant owner in the Old City of Jerusalem talks about the impact this has had on his business and our campaign. Click here to watch his video.
As Gabi suggests in the video, many local families and businesses do not expect pilgrimage to return until Spring 2021, highlighting the need for ongoing support. This is why we have extended our Hope for the Holy Land campaign – so we can continue to raise funds and provide support for families and businesses like Gabi’s. If you would like to donate, please do so using the links below:
Whether or not you are able to donate, join us in praying for our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. As Gabi said, “We really need your prayer…this is the biggest power you can give us”.
In other news, Patriarch Theophilos III penned an op-ed titled “Lessons from Jerusalem” in USA Today. Writing on the Turkish Government’s decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque, the Patriarch reflected on the sanctity and peaceful benefit of shared spaces:
"Our experience in Jerusalem is that to attempt to treat contested holy sites in an exclusive manner is simply a recipe for bitterness and suffering. When our holy sites are open to all, there is peace and mutual respect."
Elsewhere in the Holy Land, Haaretz has reported that archaeologists have discovered a sixth-century church near Mount Tabor, the site attributed to Jesus’s Transfiguration as told in Matthew 17. Some believe this large church could have been a monastery. In addition to walls and a nave, archaeologists also discovered a beautiful mosaic. The site was recently visited by Archbishop Youssef Matta, the head of the Greek Catholic Church of Acre.
Photo Credit: Alex Wiegmann, Israel Antiquities Authority
The International Community of the Holy Sepulchre helps the Churches in the Holy Land raise international awareness of the challenges that Christians face in the region while promoting the flourishing of all people in the Middle East. To learn more, visit us at www.icohs.org.