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Greetings from the Holy Land!

by Maria C. Khoury, Ed.D.

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

Greetings from the Holy Land!

It is a great and wonderful feeling to be back in Taybeh and to received the Orthodox Christian Fellowship Real Break college group led by Father Theodore and Presbytera Cristen Petrides. We hope they will have a spiritually uplifting pilgrimage as they use Taybeh for their base to see the sacred holy sites of our Lord.

We hope if your church is considering a pilgrimage in the future to help us be in touch with any local travel agents in your area working with the Holy Land so they may place Taybeh on the list of worthy places to visit in Palestine. Rumors, however, reported in Haaretz this week say that the Isreali Tourism Ministry is waging a battle against the phenomenon of foreign tourists staying in Bethlehem hotels rather than sleeping over in Jerusalem. This might mean punishments to travel agents like cutting grants for marketing budgets when hotels in the Palestinian Authority are promoted on a pilgrimage schedule.

Another economic strangulation I was reminded about on my first sale of the day is that Israeli credit cards are declined sale purchases in the West Bank while other regular visa and master cards from international or American Banks are allowed to make purchases in Palestine. It is a way for our economy to hit rock bottom because although we are a peaceful location, Israel does not want Israeli citizens visiting Taybeh and boosting the economy in buying very fine boutique Palestinian wines, Taybeh Beer, Taybeh Extra Virgin Olive oil or any of the other local products available in our small gift shop. During the Taybeh Oktoberfest, one of my favorite activities was going to the entrance and covering up the huge ugly red sign that says something like forbidden for Israeli citizens to enter. I use to cover it with a yellow banner that stayed up only 24 hours that simply said, welcome to Taybeh! I don't understand why Israeli citizens cannot visit the village when all around me I am being closed in by Israeli settlers; if the settlers can overnight next to me on confiscated Taybeh land, why can't others just stop by to see that we are some normal human being doing some good things inside a prison.

An a different note, the good news today from the Holy Land was the celebration for the consecration of the new bishop for the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem since Bishop Anba Abraham passed away last November 2015. The monk Theodore Al-Antoni was selected as the new head of church. We pray and hope all of our Christian leaders here can have a loud voice in the world for the occupation to end.

Please keep us in your prayers.

In Christ,