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> The Story of the Tent of Nations (Nahalin)
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> IRADEH (a better life for elderly Palestinians)
> Home for the Elderly in Abu Dis
> The Palestine Youth Orchestra
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> Riwaq: Non-stop Evolution
50 Years of Dedicated Service Home for the Elderly at Abu Dis
In the presence of a large number of guests, including consular officials and Muslim and Christian Palestinians, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, Patriarch of Jerusalem, celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving in which the choir of Jerusalem gave a memorable performance. The date was 23 September last. The occasion a joyous one; to celebrate 50 years of dedicated service to the Palestinian community of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories by the Home for the Elderly in Abu Dis.
After Mass, the audience adjourned to the courtyard, where Mother Lazare, the head of the French religious order Notre Dame des Douleurs (Our Lady of Sorrows) which founded and now runs the Home, welcomed the guests with a brief history of the congregation and the Home, followed by celebratory events, which included a live representation of daily life at the Home. Some residents of the Home, the nuns, salaried workers, volunteers and residents of the neighbourhood participated in these live tableaux. A reception followed.
It was on a mixed note of gratitude to Divine Providence and pride in the achievement that photos, with a commentary in French and Arabic, tracing the development of the Home over the last 50 years, from the laying of the foundation stone until the present day, were screened. The congregation of nuns faced severe resource difficulties to get the project for the Home at Abu Dis off the ground in 1956. The Trappist Convent of Latroun, the Freres’ School in Jerusalem, the ladies of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Pontifical Mission, the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and others all stepped in with help and contributions to make the Home a success story. Overcoming these difficulties, the Home was inaugurated in 1957 by the then Jerusalem Patriarch Alberto Gori.
But money has a nasty habit of running out. The nuns and the Palestinian community joined forces. Conquering timidity and fear of rejection, nuns started going out in Jerusalem and other towns visiting Palestinian businesses and individuals asking for contributions. Recognizing the necessary and worthy service that the Home brought and continues to bring to the community, Palestinians responded with matching commitment and charity. Palestinian-owned and run hotels must be singled out for special mention. The nuns would get calls from hotel managers alerting them to the presence of tourists and pilgrims to be approached, and the nuns, choosing the concentration of mealtimes, would visit the dining rooms soliciting help.
Mention must also be made of Muslim and Christian residents of neighbouring areas who would regularly contribute generously foodstuffs like flour, fruit, vegetables and meat to the Home.
Fifty years have passed and the Home is still standing, operating to serve the Palestinian community, irrespective of faith. It now boasts fifty residents of both sexes to whom the nuns and staff provide health care, and give individual attention and love, always respecting the dignity of the recipient.
The nuns running the Home still have to cope with challenges these days of a different kind far worse than those of the past. Indeed, the daily difficulties, caused by continued Israeli occupation are compounded by that Wall. The Wall of Shame and Apartheid runs very close to the Home, making it almost impossible for the staff living near by but outside the Wall to serve the Home and its residents without special permits from the occupier. These difficulties exact a heavy burden on the running of the Home, but the nuns strive and continue nevertheless to provide the same level of care. Now, Sisters Dominique and Angele, together with the other nuns whose names are not mentioned here but who dedicate all their waking hours to the Home in Abu Dis and the new Home in the village of Taybeh, east of Ramallah, continue the care and devotion of the late Sisters Hildegarde and Athanase, who worked tirelessly to see the project completed and who ran it for many years.
The nuns, staff and volunteers associated with the Homes of Abu Dis and Taybeh Village have no doubt at all that, with God’s help, both Homes will continue to offer shelter and comfort to the elderly of this land for the coming 50 years and beyond.
(Diana Safieh and Raymond Habesch contributed in compiling this article.)