From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Anglican bishop in Jerusalem says continuing violence affecting church's hospitals

Date 01 Feb 2001 09:04:38


Anglican bishop in Jerusalem says continuing violence affecting church's hospitals

by James Solheim

     (ENS) The continuing violence in the West Bank and Gaza is making life very 
difficult for Palestinians and putting pressure on two hospitals run by the Episcopal 
Diocese of Jerusalem.

     "The situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, with its disastrous impact on all 
aspects of life," reported Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem. 
"Gaza remains under a total siege, which includes all land and sea borders, as well as 
the airport," with strong economic repercussions. It is estimated, he said, that 75 
percent of the working population is now unemployed--and the rest are underemployed.

     Employees of Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City find it difficult to report for work. 
"Ambulances, even those transporting the critically ill and injured, are frequently 
denied movement" between the three distinct areas of Gaza, Riah reported in a January 
25 letter, "which effectively seals the middle of Gaza from emergency medical care. 
Emergency medical workers have been repeatedly denied access to the injured, contrary 
to all international law and the Geneva Convention."

     Adding to the pressure, Riah said that "food supplies are beginning to run short," 
especially in some of the refugee camps, and nutritional problems are appearing in 
vulnerable children. "Farmers are unable to reach their fields to tend them and to 
harvest produce" and the "demolition of homes continues," as well as "uprooting of 

     The situation at Ahli Hospital is "stable, though demanding," the bishop said. 
Through negotiations with the Palestinian National Authority, the hospital will receive 
an additional 30 hospital beds, use of the intensive care unit for government-sponsored 
patients, a center for orthopedic care and support for upgrading equipment.

     The reports from the West Bank city of Nablus are even more grim. The Rev. Hanna 
Mansour, administrator of St. Luke's Hospital, said that "things are awful" and the 
city has been subjected to nightly bombing attacks by the Israeli military for the last 
two months. "The present situation is economically crushing and there is no way for 
families to provide their daily bread. They come to us, the hospital and the church, 
for help and assistance," Mansour reported.

     It is "near to impossible" for people to reach the hospital, however, because "the 

military checkpoints prove unsurpassable," Mansour said. Medical supplies had been 
stockpiled so they are adequate but income from patient care has "dramatically diminished."

     The Christian presence in Nablus, now only 640 in a population of 250,000, 
continues to dwindle as people flee the violence. "We ask the Christians of the world 
to stand by us in solidarity, to uphold the Christian community in Nablus," said 
Mansour. "The ministry here is very important and extremely meaningful… We live in 
harmony with the Muslim community here."

--James Solheim is director of the Office of News and Information for the Episcopal 

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