Thursday, November 27, 2014

Narrative: Thanksgiving wishes from Taybeh

by Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

We too, here on the ground in Palestine, believe in miracles and hope the world will believe we are human like all people of the world.

As I woke up to heavy rain and severe wind storms in one of the highest mountain regions in Palestine, I gave glory to God  to be alive for another day and continue to keep my hope that all people of this region will learn to love humanity.  The only good thing about the dense fog in front of me is that I could not see the illegal Israeli settlement outside my kitchen window.  Settlements on the West Bank have been a huge big obstacle to any frozen peace agreement for twenty years between Israelis and Palestinians.  As the harsh weather and tough political conditions continue to be at an all-time high, I was grateful for friends around the world who prayed for a peaceful day (November 25th) during the opening of the new Taybeh Winery introducing for the first time, Palestinian boutique wines.  We were lucky the storm arrived at night after having a successful and history-making day with many local and international visitors.  All of our friends in America are celebrating a Happy Thanksgiving and we are truly thankful for having a peaceful day.  Glory be to God for all things!

As a collaborative celebration, the Belgian Consul General in Jerusalem selected our tiny village to celebrate for the first time in Palestine the King’s Day, a type of national day for Belgium traditionally held in Jerusalem  by the consulate every year during the fall with the actual birthday of King Philip being November 15th.  However, as more countries around the world are officially recognizing Palestine, we felt this decision to host the King’s Day celebration was a personal support and solidarity of our existence.  The Taybeh Golden Hotel, under construction for many years, finally opened its door to welcome many dignitaries including the Palestinian Prime Minister and the American Consul General in Jerusalem along with the ambassador of Turkey and Japan and many other leaders including the Greek Consul General.

The Taybeh Winery, on the street level of the eighty room Taybeh Golden Hotel is a dream comes true for Nadim Khoury, the co-founder of Taybeh Brewing Company along with my husband David.  Following his dad's footsteps in challenging times, my nephew Canaan, Harvard class 2013, returned home to Palestine to become the new winemaker and manage the winery with Roberto, an Italian wine maker using all state of the art equipment from Italy. 

The grapes from Taybeh and the surrounding towns of Aboud and Birzeit were crushed August 2013 and bottled recently in the “Nadim” label for Merlo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.  “Nadim” in Arabic means “drinking companion"--what the family thought was the perfect name for the new wine to enter the international market with a distinctive Palestinian identity.  This last harvest, white grapes from Hebron, were also crushed and will be bottled in the spring for what we expect to be a delicious Sauvignon Blanc.  The 2013 Grand reserve Cabernet Sauvignon reserve is aging in French oak barrels and hopefully will be bottled just in time for Christmas.  Although the website and many things are still under construction, everyone felt it was a historic day in Taybeh with the Belgian celebration and the introduction of the new fine boutique Palestinian wines. 

We are trying to do some good things under terrible conditions and show that Palestine has a civilization of culture, art, music and not only a great micro-brewed beer for twenty years but now a boutique wine too and a theme hotel to go with it.  We were honored that some of the well-known Palestinian artists, Nabil Anani and Tayser Barakat, lent their exquisite art to be displayed during the opening. Suheil Zayad from Birzeit played the oud all evening while Joseph Doughman from Bethlehem played the saxophone during the day.

As Jesus blessed the water to wine in Cana more than two thousand years ago, I surely hope all the heavy rain will be a blessing for our water shortage.  As Fr. Louis from Birzeit Latin parish said, “Taybeh is the new Cana,” because it serves as a light in the region that has so much darkness today across the board, politically, emotionally, culturally, intellectually and even with tough weather conditions.  But it was a glorious day to have our parish priest, Fr. Daoud Khoury, offer a prayer  in an ecumenical blessing with representatives from the Russian, Coptic Patriarchate and His Eminence Archbishop Aris Shirvanian from the Armenian Patriarchate with Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey from the Greek-Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Jerusalem.  Father Jack and Fr. Aziz, our local priests, also gave their blessing.  Pray with us for better times in Palestine so we can see the end of military occupation in our lifetime. However, in the meantime, Taybeh welcomes you not only for the Taybeh Beer tour which might include an interview with Madees Khoury, the only female who brews beer in Palestine, but an eye opening experience at the Taybeh Winery also.  “Eye opening” because Palestinians are normal people like you and me. 

The beautiful Bible verse in John (2:1-11) says that “ what Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and  his disciples believed in Him.”  We too, here on the ground in Palestine believe in miracles and hope the world will believe we are human as all people of the world.  And, the best is now coming from Taybeh.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Give thanks in all things. (1 Tim. 5:18)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

From a Jerusalem Christian

The Jerusalem Christian, father of three boys, writes:

This is how we are humiliated and disgraced by the Israeli police in Jerusalem. My boys are not taking public transport anymore.

Samia Khoury: Reflecting on the events of November 18, 2014

by Samia Khoury of Jerusalem

First, watch this and then you will understand why so much violence  is encompassing Jerusalem.

It did not start with the kidnapping of the three young settlers which Israel claims to be  the reason for retaliation on all fronts.  It did not start with the occupation of the Palestinian Territories in 1967.  It has been an ongoing dispossession ever since 1948 even after the Palestine National Council recognized Israel on 78% of historic Palestine in 1988.  The onslaught on  East Jerusalem has been going on with a clear agenda that  Jerusalem is the united eternal capital of Israel, with a plan to build the Temple to replace El-Haram El-Sharif. 

Ironically Har Nof where the events of today took place is originally  a Palestinian suburb  adjacent to Deir Yaseen where the infamous massacre of the Palestinians took place in April 1948.  That was the spark that  terrorized the Palestinian residents of West Jerusalem that led to their exodus.  

Yes indeed it is  brutal and completely unacceptable to attack worshippers in their place of worship, as was the attack of settler  doctor,  Baruch  Goldstein,  on  Muslim worshippers during the month of Ramadan at the Hebron Mosque in February 1994?  Twenty nine Palestinian were killed and 125 wounded at the time.  The epitaph on Goldstein’s  tombstone calls him a martyr with clean hands and a pure heart. 

 As much as I believe in un-armed resistance,  it is very sad to realize that the futility of the negotiations and the  failure of the peace process to end the occupation,  on top of Israeli provocations, are all leading  the Palestinian population of Jerusalem to desperation as they feel  completely abandoned.  While the International community continues to claim the annexation of Jerusalem as illegal and so are  the settlements, and the demolishing of homes, no action has been taken  to reverse the realities that Israel continues to create on the ground.    The young people of Jerusalem  cannot sit still any more,  simply watching and resisting peacefully while their holiest site El-Haram El-Sharif is  being coveted and taken over while the world is watching.  The more desperate those young people become, the more violence will prevail.  We continue to hope for some wisdom to prevail and a definite  resolve on behalf of the international community to put an end to Israel’s impunity and spare both people further suffering.   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Maria Khoury: News from the Holy Land

Greetings from the Holy Land!

I wish all of you a blessed Holy Nativity Fast.   Tomorrow, we are actually celebrating  the transfer of the relics of St. George from Asia Minor where he was martyred to Lod (next to the Tel Aviv airport now)  where his mother lived in ancient Palestine.  It has been an annual tradition that Christian communities from all corners of the Holy Land gather in Lod to commemorate this special feast day in addition to the one in April.  

However, some of you might know the ongoing violence in Jerusalem and the unrelenting settlement expansion and police harassment, riots and marches inside Israel have increased following the cold blood killing of an Arab youth by police in Kafr Kanna. The  Israelis and Palestinians have been killing each other back and forth in revenge attacks for many months now. Thus, many people in our community were simply too scared to get a permit and travel to the original St. George Church to continue this century old Christian tradition in memory of St. George the Great Martyr.   We pray for better times ahead and keep our hope in Christ.  

Personally, I wish I was in America instead of checkpoints where Israeli soldiers are shooting kids throwing rocks. I am not sure if we are on the verge of another uprising but may our Lord have mercy with the violence all around.

Maria Khoury, Ed.D. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Samia Khoury: Remembering November Anniversaries

 by Samia Khoury of Jerusalem

I have been reflecting on the many anniversaries during the month of November, aside  from the fact that I turned 80 last November on the day my book “Reflections from Palestine – A Journey of Hope” was launched, and that the birthday of my granddaughter’s best friend Juman, falls on the 2nd of November.  I am sure neither Juman nor her mother had much choice in determining that day to coincide with  the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 which the Palestinians consider to be the root cause of  their  dispossession.

But then November 9 was the twenty fifth anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall.  Whoever thought that wall will ever collapse?  That is why this is a very meaningful day for us, the Palestinians,  as it gives us hope that the infamous Separation Wall  which separates  the Palestinian territories from each other in the name of security, will eventually collapse some day.   However the 19th  anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin  on November 4 continues to remind us that the whole peace process was a farce, and led us  nowhere,  while at the same time  it shielded Israeli impunity as it continued to create new realities on the ground. 

November 11  is Armistice Day,  or Veteran’s day as it is called in the USA, which marked the end of World War I in 1918. Again it makes us wonder at the brutality of wars.  As if the loss of many lives in both World War I and World War II was not enough, the colonial powers continued to  wage so many wars in other peoples’ countries and under a variety of  pretexts.  Will November 11  ever make those powers realize that wars are not about solving problems but about greed, sale of armament, hegemony  and devastation.  Devastation not only of  the land and its natural resources, but devastation of humanity and the mushrooming of new radical movements.  It is very hard under the circumstances, where we watch regions torn apart, to envisage any  hope for an armistice day for our region or peace around the whole world.

Ironically November 11 is also the tenth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat.  I remember I was in Hawaii at the time and we stayed up late with my cousin Diana and her husband Jerry to watch the end of an era for the Palestinians.  Of course Israel has claimed him to be “no peace partner” despite all the concessions he made for the sake of peace.  In fact November  15 is  the 26h anniversary of the Declaration of the  Independence of the State of Palestine within the 1967 borders, and it is an official holiday in Occupied Palestine.  I still do not know what we are celebrating, after making such a compromise and  still not being independent on that 22% of our historic Palestine.  But I know the teachers and students are happy to have a long week end off.  I still remember when November 14 was an official holiday during the Jordan times, as it was the birthday of King Hussein.    Salwa,  the  school principal at Rawdat El-Zuhur had the same birthday, so her birthday was always an official holiday.