By Mark Michael
The Most Rev. Dr. Hosam Naoum, the newly installed Archbishop of Jerusalem, called on Anglicans and all Christians to pray for peace in the face of rapidly escalating violence between Israel and the Palestinian territory of Gaza.
He also appealed for donations to the only Christian hospital in Gaza City, Al Ahli Hospital, which is owned and operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. While the hospital has escaped serious damage thus far, the entire territory is without electrical power, so the hospital is operating its generators around the clock.
In a letter issued May 17, a week after the conflict broke out, Naoum, Jerusalem’s fifth ethnic Palestinian bishop, expressed sorrow and urged immediate action, writing:
“We know from sad experience that violence and hatred will never lead to solutions to the deep ethnic and religious divisions that have afflicted this region now for a century. We therefore call upon the authorities on both sides to agree to an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza conflict in order to end the rain of death and destruction that has had tragic consequences for thousands of individuals and families.”
Naoum, who served two congregations in the West Bank before becoming dean of Jerusalem’s Cathedral of St. George the Martyr in 2012, noted that the current crisis developed out of conflicts between protestors and police over the planned eviction of Palestinian refugees from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, where the cathedral is located.
The diocese has only one remaining church in Gaza, an almost entirely Sunni Muslim territory that has been intensely bombarded by the Israeli military.
Naoum urged Israeli officials “restore order and calm” in mixed Israeli-Arab areas where rioting has broken out, and for international action “to work with all parties to seriously address the underlying injustices and grievances that have led to this latest unrest in a recurring cycle of violence, working for a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis that incorporates a viable Two-State Solution.”
He also called for help on behalf of the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, a ministry of the diocese. Noam said Al Ahli Hospital “has been on the front lines of these relief efforts, becoming a beacon of hope to those trying to remain alive under such dire circumstances.” The hospital was founded in 1907 by the British Church Missionary Society, and is the oldest hospital in Gaza.
As TLC reported in July 2020, Al Ahli has served as something of an oasis in the center of Gaza City, and was on good enough terms with its neighbors that it was the only hospital in Gaza that did not station an armed guard at its gate.
The hospital’s director, Suhalia Tarazi, reported to the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ) on May 14 that despite having several windows blown out by nearby bombs, the hospital opened a new surgery ward on the conflict’s third day to treat those wounded and maimed during the attacks.
“I’ve lived through three wars in Gaza, and I’ve seen nothing like this,” Tarazi said. “The destruction is everywhere. I can’t describe the horror and fear we feel. For the first time I am depressed and terrified.”
Naoum estimated the hospital’s current needs at “upwards of 1.6 million USD to obtain fuel for hospital generators, and to purchase emergency medicine and medical supplies so that the doctors and nurses who are working around the clock can meet the crushing flow of injured and traumatized victims in this conflict.
“I therefore issue an appeal to our international partners and all people of goodwill to support this humanitarian mission through their generous contributions to Al Ahli Hospital, enabling them to show forth the compassionate love of Christ in real and tangible ways in these desperate circumstances.”
AFEDJ is collecting donations for the hospital on its website.