From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
ACNS3240 Surviving a near brush with death
"Anglican Communion News Service" <email@example.com>
Tue, 24 Dec 2002 00:23:43 -0000
ACNS 3240 | MIDDLE EAST | 23 DECEMBER 2002
Surviving a near brush with death
by Nancy J Dinsmore
As Christians contemplate the miracle of their Saviour's birth during this
advent season, the Revd Husam Naoum will be able to ponder a miracle of his
own - surviving a near brush with death.
Earlier this month, Israeli soldiers fired upon the priest of St Philip's
Episcopal Church in Nablus and St Matthew's in Zababdeh, as he travelled to
a wedding. Fr Husam said the bullets, fired from less than five meters away,
came very close to hitting him. Soldiers then told him to take off his shirt
and stand in the sun for two hours while taking his passport back to their
"It was serious and not serious at the same time," Fr Husam said of the
close call, noting that he is thankful that the bullets missed him. "(This
type of incident) happens all the time. I'm not alone."
Fr Husam said he was travelling from Nablus to Zababdeh to solemnize a
wedding during the morning of Dec. 8 - the time of the incident. He said he
and a few passengers in his taxi had just left the taxi, and they were
walking to a place where they could catch another one.
Palestinians in the West Bank like Fr Husam often must switch taxis near
checkpoints because cars otherwise must wait in enormous lines at such
places. Palestinians also must walk through rough and hilly plains, where Fr
Husam was walking on this day, because they are denied access to main roads.
Fr Husam said he and the other passengers walked up a hill past an Israeli
military jeep, which suddenly sped toward them. Soldiers inside the jeep
fired 10 to 12 shots in the air at close range as they passed. Fr Husam said
he did not think the soldiers meant to fire at the passengers, but the
bullets just barely missed them nonetheless. The soldiers then left the jeep
and ordered the group of Palestinians at gunpoint to take off their sweaters
and shirts in the middle of the road. They claimed they needed to see
whether the men were armed, Fr Husam said.
Fr Husam, who happens to be an Israeli citizen, said he tried to explain
that he was a priest and that he needed to get to a wedding. One of the
soldiers told him to "shut up" and ordered him to take off his shirt and
undershirt, he said. They took his Israeli identification card and left him
standing there for a few hours before other soldiers returned and ordered
him to return to Nablus.
Fr Husam said he tried to look for alternate routes to the site of the
wedding in the nearby village of Zababdeh, but did not succeed. He said he
could not persuade the soldiers to allow him to go to the wedding. As a
result, the Rt Revd Riah Abu El-Assal, Anglican Bishop of the Episcopal
Diocese of Jerusalem, had to appoint another priest to marry the couple in
Zababdeh. Bishop Riah said Fr Husam's voice was shaking when he spoke to him
during the day of the incident.
However, Fr Husam said similar things have happened to him in the past, and
such occurrences are common. The fact that soldiers fire their guns in the
air near civilians is a problem, but the fact that West Bank Palestinians
cannot travel from place to place is particularly painful, he said.
Soldiers enforce curfews in Nablus on a semi-regular basis, including every
Friday, when Muslims normally would go to the mosque to pray, Fr Husam said.
However, life these days is better than it was this summer, when Israeli
troops started a three-month curfew, only briefly allowing people out of
their homes to buy food once every 10 days, he said.
"Sometimes, I'm just amazed how people deal with it," he said. "The
situation here is very bad. I pray all the time for peace, and in church we
always pray for reconciliation and for an end to this miserable situation."
The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem condemns all forms of violence, calling
for peace and justice for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.
Fr Husam requested that supporters of the Diocese continue to hold up
members of his congregations in their prayers. He added that financial
support for diocesan institutions, including St. Luke's Hospital in Nablus,
is needed. The hospital has suffered major financial setbacks because
patients have not been able to come during curfew times, he said.
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