The World

"Let us not tire of praying for peace," says Arab Christian in Nazareth.

Kameel Spanyoli is an Arab Christian living in Nazareth. At Omnes we had the opportunity to hear his testimony and how he is living these difficult times in the Holy Land.

Antonino Piccione-October 13, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes

A pilgrim prays on the steps of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, Oct. 10, 2023 ©OSV News photo/Debbie Hill

Kameel Spanyoli is a 44 year old Arab Christian with a degree in Communication from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and resident in Nazareth, where he works with the Franciscan Order.

On what is currently happening in Israel, he states that "it is the poisoned fruit of a long process, culminating in the fierce confrontation between two extremisms. Those who pay the price, unfortunately, are the civilian populations on both sides."

Kameel Spanyoli

We point out to him, however, that Hamas's responsibilities seem as obvious as they are despicable. "Last Saturday," he replies, "hundreds of Gaza terrorists invaded Israel and massacred innocents. They didn't shoot soldiers, they shot young people, young people dancing at a party, a couple of parents sitting at a family breakfast, old people going out to work in the garden. Dozens of Israelis were kidnapped. The kidnappers, with their faces uncovered, with frightening pride, posted videos of the kidnappings on the Internet. Many Israelis learned that their loved ones had been kidnapped from social media and television. This is truly despicable."

The role of the Christian community in Israel

Following the appeal for peace in Israel Pope Francis called the parish priest of Gaza in the face of the increasingly dramatic escalation of the war, expressing his concern and closeness to him. We asked Kameel what role the Christian community in the State of Israel can play.

"First of all," he says, "we must not tire of praying that those responsible on both sides will come clean in the search for a peace solution or, at least at this terrible stage, for a truce. Innocent civilians are dying, there is no mercy even for women and children. The Christian community here is not a monolith: the one in Jerusalem is different from the one in Gaza. However, the Christian world is united in the defense of Israel against the cowardly aggression of Hamas, despite the tensions and expressions of hostility towards us fueled by ultra-Orthodox Jews."

On Monday, the Israeli daily Haaretz published a video showing a group of Jews spitting in the direction of Christian pilgrims in the "Old City" of Jerusalem, where several sites sacred to Christianity, Judaism and Islam are located. Haaretz added that other such incidents occurred when many extremist Jews visited Jerusalem's Old City for the holiday of Sukkot, one of the most important Jewish holidays, which commemorates the liberation of the Jews from Egypt recounted in the Bible. The question arises whether there is a need to fear the extension of the conflict with the intervention of other countries.

"Let us not tire of praying for peace."

"What is worrying," Kameel points out," "are the positions adopted by some politicians, such as the Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, who ordered the immediate purchase of 10,000 firearms to be issued to civilians. In the immediate future, the minister announced, 4,000 assault rifles will be distributed among the members of the so-called 'alert teams', made up of volunteers with military experience who operate in all the small towns of Israel. In this case, the militarization of ordinary citizens is a serious red flag. Of course, the eventual full involvement of Hezbollah would produce incalculable damage, most likely triggering US intervention in an anti-Lebanese key. Let us not tire of praying for peace and for the wisdom of men".

This is the final exhortation of Kameel Spanyoli, evoking the words of Pope Francis: "Terrorism and extremism do not help to reach a solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but feed hatred, violence, revenge, and only make each other suffer".

The authorAntonino Piccione

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