In 2014 a group of us from St Paul’s met George Safar for the first time during our Pilgrimage to the Holy Land – he was our guide for our visit to Bethlehem.
In September 2014 George contacted me in a state of despair. Extreme violence and fighting had erupted between the Israelis and the Palestinians and his work as a Tour Guide had dried up. Once again, Pilgrims were being advised to stay away from the Holy Land.
So began our relationship and our adoption of the Safar family. Since 2014 we have been sending support for George and his family and we have constantly held them in prayer.
Life has continued to be difficult for them for so many reasons, neither George, nor his wife, Shireen enjoy particularly good health and Maeven, their eldest child has proven to have significant learning and behavioural difficulties.
We were privileged to meet up with George when our group stayed in Bethlehem in 2017 and he was happy to talk openly to us about the difficulties faced by so many Palestinian Christians.
Those difficulties included living in the continual prison that is Bethlehem. The sheer scale of the wall that separates the West Bank from Israel is difficult to describe, but once experienced, never forgotten.
The recent conflict has impacted upon the Christian communities, not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but also across Israel where sectarian violence is now much more prevalent. It is a constant volatile situation.
And then of course there is the ongoing issue we are also struggling with: the Pandemic. We have all heard through our news reports about how far advanced Israel is with its vaccines, however, what is not being said is how far this is from the case amongst Palestinians, other than those who live or work in Israel – those in the West Bank and in Gaza, those who live in Bethlehem. The supply of vaccine to these people is extremely low and many are also very suspicious of the vaccine and so are refusing it.
The messages I have received from our Christian friends in Bethlehem over the past weeks have been so very sad. I also received the following prayer through the Archbishop of Jerusalem, our lovely friend, Hosam. He writes:
I ask those within the Anglican Communion and all of Christendom to join with us in offering the following prayer:
Almighty and Everlasting God: Our days are in your hands; we lift up all those in the Holy Land who are victims of violence and injustice, that you might empower your Church to bring healing to the wounded, relief to the suffering, and comfort to those who mourn; we pray also that you would soften the hearts of all those involved in the recent conflicts, that they would be led to work for justice and lasting peace in the land where your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ first came to bring hope and abundant life to all people; these things we ask in his Holy Name. Amen.
Please do continue to hold our adopted Bethlehem family: George, Shireen, Maeven, Immanuel, and all who are struggling in the Holy Land at this difficult time, in your prayers.