Page 3 of 4

image Click for more images

The community offers a five-day summer camp and a three-day spring retreat. It has also created a set of three Hebrew-language catechism books that weave together both Catholic and Jewish teachings and traditions. Before Mass, teachers in the community offer classes in religious education.

To make the church relevant to children — and to recall Jesus’ life as a Jew — the community offers a retreat on Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and hosts a big get-together on Sukkot, the feast of the Tabernacles.

“We are aware these are events that were celebrated by Jesus and they punctuate the time of the society in which we live,” Father Neuhaus says.

Hebrew-speaking Catholics are acutely aware that some Jews and Arabs — including Christians — may misunderstand their motives. They are fearful, too, of religious extremists, who on occasion have desecrated church properties. The community tries to maintain a low profile and to keep outward Christian symbols to a minimum.

“We know that external signs of Christianity, and particularly the cross, arouse warm feelings of belonging among Christians, but that is not always the case with Jews, who might have vivid and traumatic memories of European anti-Semitism,” Father Neuhaus says.

Complicating matters further, Israeli and Palestinian Arab Christians often do not understand how Catholics can support the state of Israel.

The Arab Christian community “is a traumatized community” because of the displacement of so many Palestinians, Father Neuhaus notes. “We live in a country full of friction, we on the Israeli Jewish side and many of our Catholic brothers and sisters on the Palestinian side, so this friction is present in the church as well. “The challenge,” he concludes, “is to live the unity of the Body of Christ despite the divisions of politics, violence and war.”

The community is also engaged in less-controversial outreach — to Israel’s Christian migrant population.

While the children hail from various countries, many were educated in Israel. Hebrew is often the only language they can read. These children have access to Hebrew catechism books and religion classes. A small number are able to attend the five-day summer camp.

“All of this takes up an enormous part of our energy and resources,” Father Neuhaus notes, sounding a bit weary.

Resources are limited. Many members of the vicariate are working class and barely scrape by.

As much as they want to, it is hard for them to donate money.

Due to its own financial constraints, the Latin Patriarchate has given its Hebrew-speaking vicariate “almost nothing,” Bishop Shomali says. &lduo;So far, they’ve had to manage things themselves by fundraising. We have to help them but lack the money to do so. At the very least, we can introduce them to various Catholic organizations.”

Post a Comment | Comments(0)

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |