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2006 - April Newsletter of the Diocese of Jerusalem. 


Greetings from Bishop Riah


“At last I managed to get into Gaza to visit with our people there, to meet with the members of the Board as well as the Staff Committee. I had the opportunity to discuss with UNWRA the ministry of the hospital, challenging their director and his assistants to reconsider their commitment to work with us as before.


They were in fact thinking of canceling their cooperation with us within the next three months, thus endangering the future of our hospital. Since there are still thousands of refugees in the Gaza Strip it would have been an indication of great irresponsibility to the terminate our work relationship, on which so many people and our hospital in particularly significantly depend.


I also met Ismail Hanyieh, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, at his office and shared with him the importance of the Christian presence in the Land of the Holy One and the many wonderful services offered by our medical and educational institutions.


I conveyed the message that we expect his recognition and participation as well as his affirmation that the Arab Christian community is part and parcel of the Arab Palestinian people. Further, I assured him that we are equally ready to do everything within our power to promote the cause of peace - peace with justice and peace with truth.


We found him to be a good listener and appreciative of the different ministries of the church. He promised to give attention and support to the different Christian institutions. We also found him ready to reach out to leaders of the Christian Community in the world at large and to the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem in particular.” (March 31, 2006)  


Gaza on verge of disaster

United Nations aid organizations are warning that the Gaza Strip is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster due to a lack of money and food.


David Shearer, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told Foreign Ministry officials that if there is no significant change in the situation, Gaza will face a humanitarian crisis as bad as the one in Kosovo.


A report by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) warns of a lack of basic food supplies due to the frequent closures of the Karni crossing that are preventing goods from reaching Gaza from Egypt. The report also said there has been a significant increase in the number of hungry people since financial aid has been halted.

World Bank statistics show that if there is no dramatic change, 75 percent of Palestinians will be below the poverty line within two years. The current rate is 56 percent, compared to 22 percent in 2000.


In the last two months, as a protest against the Hamas government, Israel has been withholding the transfer of some NIS 200 million a month in tax funds to the Palestinian Authority, and the United States and several other countries have frozen monthly financial aid payments coming to some $45 million.

UNRWA officials are concerned that PA workers have not received their salaries this month, due to Israel withholding the tax money. The United Nations estimates that 37 percent of employed people in the Gaza Strip - more than 73,000 people - work for the PA.


Basic needs

UNRWA commissioner-general Karen Koning Abu Zayd told Haaretz that if the PA workers stop receiving their salaries, the UN organization will have a hard time coping with even the most basic needs of refugees.

Abu Zayd expects 25,000 families will be added to the food distribution list and said UNRWA is lacking nearly $120 million of the $457.9 million it needs to fund basic needs. Out of the $150 million needed for projects, such as building schools, the organization has received only $14.3 million, she said.


Bird Flu

There is also a public health issue facing the Palestinians in Gaza, according to the UNRWA report: Some 850,000 fowl are suspected of having contracted bird flu. Donor nations have yet to transfer in full the money allotted to fight the virus.

But the threat is not limited to the Palestinians. A report released last month by Stratfor, a consulting agency that provides intelligence assessments on world issues, noted that it is places such as the Gaza Strip where the bird pandemic is mostly to mutate into a flu that affects humans.

The OCHA report, meanwhile, states that if the Palestinian Authority loses its sources of income due to the boycott on donations and the checkpoints remain closed to Palestinian goods, the PA's gross national product is expected to go down by at least a quarter.



Strangled in Gaza – Impact of Israeli Elections

Amira Hass: “In the elections, Israelis [did] not vote just for themselves. Not only [did] they choose parties that affect their own lives for four years, but also those of 3.5 million occupied Palestinians - as they have done for 39 years now. The winners in Israel […] form a government that will determine the most minute details of every Palestinian's life.

This is the essence of occupation. One people casts its votes and thereby authorizes its democratic government to be a dictator in a place that it rules by military hegemony. In that place there lives a separate nation that is entirely excluded from any rights in this democratic game.


By closing the Karni crossing to merchandise for prolonged periods, Mofaz (as a cabinet representative) sent tens of thousands of Gazan Palestinians on unpaid leave. Drivers, merchants, porters, sewing workshop workers, farmers, construction workers and contractors, whose materials are not arriving, are all out of work. The already large number of people dependent on charity in Gaza will grow. The chain reaction will affect every family's life and choices: the children's education, medical treatment, visiting relatives, building an additional room to alleviate the crowded conditions at home.“


Diocesan Institutions –

The Al Ahli Arab Hospital, Gaza


Suhaila Tarazi, Director of Al Ahli Hospital: “The situation in Gaza is truly worrying. It has become from bad to worse. It is an awful life in Gaza. Every ten minutes there is bombing. Sometimes I shout: What about our children!”


Ahli Arab Hospital is a profound illustration of the mission of the Anglican Church, and a visible expression of our concern for the community in our daily lives. Ahli Arab Hospital is known and respected as a provider of the highest quality health care for all the people of Gaza. A significant portion of their care is charitable as they minister to many of the poorest, in a community where over 60% of the residents live in refugee camps.


During recent years Ahli Arab Hospital has responded to the needs of the people as they occur, in particular during times of crises that relate to the Palestinian Israeli Conflict. Throughout its emergency programs the hospital has continued to provide medical treatment to victims of the current crises.


The hospital is also involved in organizing free medical outreach clinics to the most needy areas to bring primary care and home care services to villages and individuals who cannot access health services from any other sources. The hospital coordinates with the community to host the free medical missions and provides free health care for the patients.


Finally on September 12, 2005, the Israeli Occupying Forces were redeployed around the Gaza Strip after they had evacuated settlements earlier on this year. Less than one month following their redeployment in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Occupying Forces escalated their attacks against Palestinian civilians and property in the Gaza Strip and still do so today. This escalation proves that they continue to substantially occupy the Gaza Strip, despite the recent evacuation of Israeli settlements.


In the same time the Israeli launched several aerial attacks against Palestinian civilian targets throughout the Gaza Strip. They also launched a series of mock aerial raids, which made Palestinian civilians, especially children, extremely terrified, and damaged their property. Even though the Israeli Occupying Forces were redeployed around the Gaza Strip, the Israeli government maintained control over all border crossings of the Gaza Strip, transforming it into a big jail.


The true impact of this violence on the lives of ordinary people becomes clear. There is not a single family who has not been affected by the loss or injury of family members, the loss of work and income, and more commonly both. The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank has dramatically deteriorated.


Ahli Arab Hospital offers 80 beds in the departments of general surgery, general medicine, gynecology obstetrics, and pediatrics. It also provides specialized medical care such as orthopedics, plastic surgery and urology. During 2004, the hospital was able to treat 3797 referred patients in the out patient clinics and emergency departments of the hospital. It observed a total of 12302 patient days.


Regarding Out Patient Services, Ahli provides out patient clinics as well as a 24-hour emergency and ambulance services. In the year 2004 a total of 25283 patients were treated in the general surgical and medical services as well as in the urology, orthopedic, gynecology and pediatrics clinics.


In the Diagnostic Services, Ahli Hospital provides basic laboratory services such as hematology, chemistry, and serology as well as small blood bank, radiology and ultrasound services for both out and in patients. During the past year the hospital performed 6019 X-Ray examinations and 26969 Laboratory tests. The hospital also provides physiotherapy and rehabilitation services for out and in patients.


More than ever the people of Al Ahli Hospital and Gaza in general need your prayers, action and support. There are no words to the ongoing suffering and injustice. Every day the Christians of Gaza and their neighbors experience the hardship of fasting in the desert, the hardship of Good Friday. Please, pray for us as we do for you and remember that you have the power to change, if only your heart is filled with the love of Christ.


The Diocese of Jerusalem



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