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The community is dependent on the generosity of benefactors, and has received some support from collaboration with CNEWA and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a chivalric order of the Catholic Church that supports the Latin Patriarchate. It also receives small sums from Catholic aid associations for specific projects. The vicariate receives no money whatsoever from the Israeli government.

While the community’s members are extremely grateful for everything they have — and some have very little by Israeli standards — they dream of a time when their church will be able to offer more, especially for young people.

In her ground-floor home in the southern city of Beersheva, Mariana Assy, a 40-year-old mother of four, hopes that some of the Arabic-language Christian texts she used as a schoolgirl in the Christian Arab town of Fasuta, in the north, will one day be translated into Hebrew.

Seated in her cheery living room, Mrs. Assy explains that her children have never learned to read or write in Arabic. “We moved from the north to the south to find work before the children were born,” Mrs. Assy, a teacher says. Her husband, Raphael, is a chemical engineer. Until relatively recently, she explains, “there was no Arabic-language school in Beersheva” — though there is now a Hebrew-Arabic academy — “which left only Hebrew-language schools.

“Our children know some Arabic, but don’t understand enough to attend Arabic services,” she notes. “And anyway, there is no Arab Catholic church in Beersheva.”

Nearby, in her tiny apartment on the 14th floor of a run-down building, Mariana Rashed, an Arab Catholic teacher originally from the north of the country, breaks into a smile at the mention of the catechism class she offers the community’s youth.

“If we had the money we would use it to develop ourselves,” she says.

“I’d start with more educational opportunities, of course. Maybe rent a bigger place to hold services. You can be sure we wouldn’t use it to build a bell tower or a cathedral!”

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Contributor Michele Chabin lives and works in Jerusalem.

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