Easter behind the wall 04-18-09

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Celebrating Miracle of Holy Fire Behind the Wall
Maria C. Khoury —
(Taybeh, Occupied Palestine) It was an amazing and extraordinary day in Ramallah and then in Taybeh receiving the Holy Fire following the miracle at Christ’s Holy Life-Giving Tomb in Jerusalem on this Great and Holy Saturday afternoon. I decided not to argue with the soldiers and the policemen in Jerusalem like last year where my husband David and I could not get anywhere near the Holy Sepulchre.

Also, I decided to take the advise of the Greek monk during my first time to witness the Miracle of the Holy Fire (2002) when he kicked me out of the front row near the Life-Giving-Tomb and said in Greek: “My child it is not only with the eyes that we see.” I think he desperately needed the space for the Greek Consul and Greek dignitaries that attend this special miracle but his wise words never left my thoughts.

I had a wonderful day waiting for the Holy Fire to go through the checkpoints and arrive in Ramallah for all those who do not have permits to enter Jerusalem. Since on top of the security permits, we also need additional passes to go by further checkpoints to get to the Holy Sepulchre. To access holy places and pray on holy days should be a basic human right not needing any permits or passes but we live a bizarre life under Israeli occupation. Don’t ever take your religious freedom for granted, we suffer to achieve it.

It was an incredible two-hour parade in Ramallah which included the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts from Taybeh and all of the surrounding cities, villages and refugee camps with the largest Scouts group being Sireyt Ramallah which was the first group to initiate the parade and the last group of scouts leading over thirty altar boys from the Ramallah Orthodox Church marching with icons and crosses. The streets were filled with thousands of Christians and Muslims watching Father Galation, along with the Mayor of Ramallah, the Honorable Jennet Michael, who is a devote Orthodox Christian herself receiving the flame from the miracle of the Holy Fire and marching throughout the main street in Ramallah until they reached the Holy Transfiguration Church with the president of the parish council, Mr. Salem Hanania also accompanying. Fr. Yacoub, Fr. Nicola, Fr. Emanuel were all present along with Fr. Aktham the Latin priest and the Episcopalian minister. The Ramallah governor was also present in the procession with many prominent Palestinian Christians along with Mr. Moheeb Awad who represents the only Christian vote in the Palestinian Legislative Council beside Dr. Gazi Hanania, former council member and David Khoury, Mayor of Taybeh. My good friend, attorney Maher Hanania, reflected upon this unbelievable day the best: “By far this is the most emotional day for Christians.”

There were people in the balconies, on the roof tops and hanging out of windows trying to catch all of the colors and sounds of the many drums and bagpipes of over twelve different scout groups with the Ramallah Islamic Scouts, Ramallah Orthodox Club, Jifna, Birzeit, Aboud and Kadoura Refugee Camp to name a few. My favorite scouts were the two year old boys and girls who needed an adult to keep them marching in a straight line. I specifically noticed the teenager among the scouts wearing the t-shirt, “Our time Has Come,” and immediately I thought it meant our time has come to have a normal life like the rest of the world since nine years there has been no change in the Holy Land and conditions continue to get worse than the day before. Atrocity after atrocity there has only been violence and darkness while the world watches and does nothing to help end the occupation.

A group passed out chocolates to the crowds that had a typewritten note: “Love one another.” And if you have ever personally asked me about Muslim-Christian relationships in Palestine, I offer the example of this Holy Saturday reflecting a beautiful day of cooperation and celebration as Christians witness the Miracle of the Holy Fire. If you have ever personally asked me why Palestinian people do not practice non-violent resistance, I experienced this day in Ramallah and Taybeh as peaceful and non-violent resistance. People trying to live normal lives and celebrate ancient centuries’ old traditions while locked up within a wall and open prison. Israeli Occupation forces brutally killed Bssem Abu Rahmeh from Bilin, 30 years old while participation in a non-violent demonstration on Friday and the Israeli settlers from Bet El viciously killed a young boy from Jalazon Refugee camp the same day. It is a struggle to stay peaceful while you are being stripped of your dignity and humanity on a daily basis.

After the Holy Fire has been received in Ramallah with this fantastic parade each Scouts group is responsible to carry the flame to their home village to prepare for the Midnight Resurrection service continuing yet another parade and marching to the local Orthodox Church in an ecumenical parade where all Christian faiths participate. Thus the Taybeh Scouts including our seven year old cousin, Philip, who learned from his dad Ibrahim to carry the flame in the lantern, insisted on holding the sign, “Light of Christ” and riding on top of the tiny white car while entering Taybeh before sunset while the whole community was anxiously waiting chanting hymn giving glory to God.

Christian people filled the streets of Ramallah and Taybeh today as witnesses to the true Light. In Luke 16:15 we read that Jesus said: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” We witness the truth and His Beatitude the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Theophilos III, received the Holy Fire on Holy Saturday in Jerusalem so that all who are not living in the land of Christ’s Holy Resurrection can believe that Christ is the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (John 1:9) Christ is Risen!


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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com