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Real life experience in Jerusalem


From: CathNews New Zealand

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Most of what I read online in the New Zealand and Australian papers seems to have an Israeli bias.

Well that’s the impression I get here in Palestine, where I work at Bethlehem University.

Bethlehem University is home to over 3300 students and 400 employees and over the past two weeks it has been closed for seven days due to the worsening situation here on the West Bank, in Jerusalem and parts of Israel.

The closure of the University means that our students’ education is being continually disrupted.

At the moment it is too worrying for our students to come to the University from Hebron and Jerusalem (40% come from Jerusalem) due to the increased scrutiny at checkpoints by the army and the possibility of revenge attacks brought about by the random stabbing attacks that have occurred particularly in Jerusalem.

Two of these closures were brought about by a general strike that was called by the Governor of the Bethlehem region in protest over the shooting and killing of two young Palestinians, one thirteen and the other 26.

The thirteen year old came from the Aida refugee camp about ten minutes walk from the University. It seems he was shot by mistake by an Israeli sniper.

The twenty-six year old from the Duheisha refugee camp was shot during a protest on the Bethlehem side of Rachel’s Tomb on Tuesday. Today marks the twelfth day in a row there have been protests here in Bethlehem.

Normally on a Friday the young people gather and throw rocks at the surveillance tower in Bethlehem and the Israeli army responds by entering the northern end of Bethlehem, firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.

Due to the escalating violence the IDF have been given permission to fire live bullets.
It broke my heart the other day to learn that a 13 year old Palestinian boy had stabbed a 13 year old Israeli boy who was out riding his bike.

There is no rationale that can excuse these random acts of violence just as there is no rationale to excuse the disproportionate response of the Israeli forces.

  • The majority of the Palestinian attackers have been shot and killed.
  • Palestinians and Israelis are living in fear.
  • Children are living in fear.

While this is happening those in authority on either side are apportioning blame to the other.

I cannot help thinking that the Israeli security responses, that include the destruction of the family homes of those Palestinians who attack and kill Israelis, the blocking off of neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, the refusal to return the bodies of alleged attackers to their Palestinian families for burial will only further inflame the situation.

Yet there are signs of hope.

Yesterday I read of a gathering of Israelis and Palestinians who gathered for a vigil for peace.

It would seem that the Palestinian fight for statehood has gone off the radar of most people outside of the Middle East.

The fact remains that Palestine is still occupied by Israel.

It also seems that Palestine will continue to be occupied into the future, particularly if more Israeli illegal settlements are allowed to be built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

It is a complicated situation here with no easy solutions.

Bethlehem University is the only Catholic University in the Holy Land and commenced in 1973 under the direction of the De La Salle Brothers.

The current Vice Chancellor is Br Peter Bray, originally from Taranaki.

We are grateful here for the 3000 pilgrims that visit us here at Bethlehem University and listen to the heartfelt stories of our students for whom the occupation is a daily reality.

Please hold the Holy Land in your prayers.

  • Br Mark McKeon is De La Salle Brother from Australia who before coming to Bethlehem taught in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. He is currently working at Bethlehem University as the Vice President for Human Resources and Administrative Affairs.


Bethlehem University Foundation
Phone: +1-240-241-4381
Fax: +1-240-553-7691
Beltsville, MD USA
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
Phone: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
Bethlehem, Palestine