Church of the Holy Redeemer in Jenin Church of the Holy Redeemer in Jenin 

Palestinian Catholic laments damage to parish church in Jenin

In the wake of Israel’s military incursion in the West Bank, local residents lament fire damage inflicted on a Catholic church in Jenin and plead for protection from the international community.

By Devin Watkins

“We Palestinians are human beings, not terrorists. We don’t want to be birds in a cage.”

The two-day Israeli military operation in the Jenin refugee camp earlier this week has left residents scarred and a Catholic parish church in ruins.

As young Palestinians and Israeli security forces exchanged gunfire near Holy Redeemer parish in Jenin, the Latin-rite Catholic church caught fire and suffered massive damage.

All the doors and windows were destroyed, and the interior of the church was left blackened from the fire damage.

Dr. Walid Basha, a resident of Jenin and a Catholic parishioner of Holy Redeemer, spoke to Vatican News’ Antonella Palermo about the destruction and the Israeli operation.

“It was really horrible to see the damage to the church,” he said. “It is a holy place and to see it burned without respect has really touched our faith.”

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, lamented the damage to the Catholic parish, and called for “dialogue to prevent other unjustified attacks on the population.”

Freedom and dignity

Dr. Basha the is Head of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at An-Najah National University in Nablus.

His home sits just 300 meters from the Jenin refugee camp which hosted around 14,000 people, but he noted that the camp is well-integrated into the city and that Christians in the area have good relationships with their Muslim neighbors.

Dr. Basha recounted that the youngest son of a close family friend was killed in the Israeli incursion earlier this week.

He added that it is difficult for foreigners to understand what life is like in the occupied West Bank.

“For me, as a Palestinian Christian,” said Dr. Basha, “the most important point is freedom and having the chance to feel that I’m really human and worthy of dignity, without being humiliated.”

Desire for an end to occupation

Freedom of movement presents a daily problem for residents of the West Bank, he noted.

His route to the university in theory takes around 40 minutes. However, in reality, he has to leave his home at least an hour and a half early due to unannounced road closures or informal protests on the part of Israeli settlers that restrict movement.

Since Dr. Basha hails from Nazareth, and his wife from Bethlehem, any plans to visit family are subject to unimaginable difficulties and roadblocks.

He attributes these difficulties to the Israeli occupation, which began in June 1967, just two months before Dr. Basha was born.

“Every day of our life is daily life under occupation, daily life under problems,” he said. “We only want to remove the occupation from our heart and to feel I’m human.”

Listen to a clip of the interview

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07 July 2023, 13:20