Ever more alone” “

The situation of the Palestinian people in the Caritas report presented to the meeting of European and North American bishops." "

“Since September 2000, i.e. since the beginning of the second Intifada, 1918 Palestinians have been killed, of whom 19% below the age of 17, and 41,000 injured, of whom 2500 permanently disabled: 720 houses have been demolished and 11,553 damaged; 185 Palestinian activists have been executed, 6,000 are still being held in prison, of whom 350 are adolescents”. These are just some of the data reported by Claudette Habesch, general secretary of Caritas in Jerusalem, in the course of the meeting of European and North American bishops held in Jerusalem from 14 to 16 January. The situation described by Habesch is a dramatic one and is further aggravated by the “failure of the UN resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by the Israeli settlement policy and by the inability of the Palestinian Authority to respond to the needs of Palestinian civil society”. In particular, as pointed out by the Caritas secretary, the measures imposed by the Israelis in the Territories – “to the 120 permanent road blocks other temporary ones have been added – prevent the Palestinians from “providing for their own basic human needs and have precipitated them into a serious humanitarian crisis”. “The Palestinian economy has collapsed – Habesch said –. Sectors such as tourism, agriculture, telecommunications show no particular signs of growth and many firms have been forced to cut their workforce. The gross domestic product has dropped by 51% and unemployment in the Gaza Strip has risen to 67% . 75% of the population now live below the poverty threshold”. Nor is the situation in schools and hospitals any better: “According to the Palestinian minister of education – reports Caritas – 850 schools have closed, 9 have suffered vandalistic attacks, 8 transformed into military barracks, 11 totally destroyed and over 185 bombarded. 132 students have been killed, 2500 injured and 1135 hours of teaching have been lost due to closures and curfews”. “The hospital system is underdeveloped. In the hospitals of Gaza and the West Bank many medical facilities or services are not available. Patients are forced to go to Jerusalem, if they succeed in getting through the road blocks, and incur costs that are not covered by the health service”. Difficulties of travel are also imposed on those who want to go to the Holy Places for prayer: “Palestinians, Muslims and Christians are prohibited from visiting their respective holy places”. In particular, according to Caritas in Jerusalem, the emigration of Christians from the Holy Land is giving rise to deep concern. “It’s essential, in this regard, that the Church be involved in school programmes to promote the Christian identity and what it means to be a Christian, the creation of new jobs and the construction of houses”. “Alone – so the report concludes – we cannot achieve these results. That’s why we are appealing to the international community and to Churches throughout the world so that Israelis and Palestinians be helped in the search for peace”.

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