letters from the holy land


Receiving the Holy Fire Once Again

by Maria C. Khoury, Ed.D.

We have just celebrated the Miracle of the Holy Fire in Taybeh in a most magnificent way at the outskirts of our village approximately 5:30 pm local time on this Great and Holy Saturday while waiting all afternoon when this great miracle occurred once again in Jerusalem.

"O Gladsome Light, of the Holy glory of the Immortal Father, heavenly Holy, blessed Jesus Christ!" (Holy Saturday Morning Prayers)

The local priests, Fr. Daoud, Fr. Jack and Fr. Aziz, of all three churches and Fr. Peter who came from Jerusalem with the choir chanting, and the Taybeh Scouts beating the drums marched again this year to meet our cousin Ibrahim with his son Philip, who went to the city of Ramallah, where the faithful brought the flame from Jerusalem for the Palestinian Christian s who cannot reach the Holy City due to lack of permits. Many residents of Taybeh, were in the streets for the ecumenical procession which was simply glorious although a bit cloudy with a sprinkle of rain.

The solemn and beautiful procession in our village ended at St. George Church, where Fr. Daoud placed the flame on the altar to await the faithful for the Resurrection service of Holy Pascha: "Come ye and receive light from the unwaning Light, and glorify Christ, Who arose from the dead."

In the last few years during Great and Holy Saturday, I have delivered the same message from the Holy Land. But it has been a great spiritual joy to keep reminding friends about the miracle that appeared for the first time during the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Luke 24:4; Matthew 28:1-4) This magnificent miracle is at the core of our Christian presence in the Holy Land The Miracle of the Holy Fire received today by His Beatitude Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem was broadcasted live on Palestine TV.

Wishing you a Blessed Palm Sunday

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

I hope and pray your Palm Sunday was as blessed and glorious as the beautiful and sunny Palm Sunday celebration we had here in Taybeh today with all three churches and the entire Taybeh community marching in an amazing ecumenical procession in the village which solemnly ended up at the fourth century ruins of Saint George Church. We keep our hope in Christ especially since conditions in the Middle East especially Syria and Egypt are worse than ever for Christians. May our Lord have mercy! There does not appear to be a resurrection for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict either. In front of my kitchen window I can now see four new illegal Israeli settlements being built on confiscated Palestinian land on mountain tops.

However, in the very land of Christ's Holy Resurrection we will continue to pray that the world will always be guided by the True Light of Christ.

I hope you will have a blessed holy week and glorious Pascha celebration.

With sincere good wishes from Taybeh,
maria

Matthew 21:9
The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

Book Review + Christina's Counting Book by Maria Khoury

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

Greetings from the Holy Land on this holy day of the Annunciation which we celebrate here 13 days later. God grant many years for all celebrating on this special feast day! Happy Greek Independence Day for all of our Greek friends too!

To avoid sending you too many emails I am finding this chance to ask you to please recommend Christina Books to your Sunday School and Bookstore during this Holy Great Lent. Thank you for sharing this Book Review by my dear friend Marilyn Rouvelas. With the great blessing to be in Jerusalem today at the most sacred Holy Life Giving Tomb of Christ, I did light a candle especially for the Lord to rest in peace the soul of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip. Memory Eternal!

Our sincere sympathy from Taybeh, in Christ, maria

In Christ,
maria


 

Book Review by Marilyn Rouvelas

Maria Khoury, Christina's Counting Book, Second Edition
Canaan David Khoury Publications, 2013. Pp. 32, $10

Fortunately the number of Orthodox children's books keeps multiplying, yet it is encouraging to see that Maria Khoury's Christina books continue to anchor the shelves! Her books communicate to our little ones so sweetly and effectively about our faith. Christina's Counting Book, Second Edition, is another treasure, and I highly recommend it.

First Orthodox Christian Short Film Festival

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

I wish you a blessed and peaceful Triodion Period as many of us are preparing for the Holy Great Lenten Journey.

I wanted to share the witness of Justin Daniel so that you might view his film about the Holy Fire and vote. Please know the way he describes this amazing miracle is honest and true. It is the way I have experienced it... Please share The Miracle of the Holy Fire with your church community and Sunday school students especially this time of year when all of our eyes turn to Jerusalem to spiritually walk with Christ. Consider providing a link on your website.

Orthodox Filmmakers and Artists are hosting the first ever Orthodox Christian Short Film Festival via the internet. Justin Daniel's short video blog about the HOLY FIRE & PASCHA IN THE HOLY CITY has been selected to screen at Byzanfest along with 11 other short-films. Although the short film has not been nominated for any awards it can still have a chance of winning the AUDIENCE FAVOURITE AWARD.

This is awarded to the film that receives the most number of 'likes' on the Orthodox Filmmakers & Artists' YouTube Channel. You can view all 12 films via the YouTube link from the OFA Byzanfest Official Website which will lead you to the official Byzanfest viewing page to view all 12 films. If you have troubles, please use this link.

Justin's short video that did not make the awards is based on the tour I give in Taybeh: Tour of the Palestinian Traditional Parables Home.

First Orthodox Christian Short Film Festival

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

I wish you a blessed and peaceful Triodion Period as many of us are preparing for the Holy Great Lenten Journey.

I wanted to share the witness of Justin Daniel so that you might view his film about the Holy Fire and vote. Please know the way he describes this amazing miracle is honest and true. It is the way I have experienced it... Please share The Miracle of the Holy Fire with your church community and Sunday school students especially this time of year when all of our eyes turn to Jerusalem to spiritually walk with Christ. Consider providing a link on your website.

Orthodox Filmmakers and Artists are hosting the first ever Orthodox Christian Short Film Festival via the internet. Justin Daniel's short video blog about the HOLY FIRE & PASCHA IN THE HOLY CITY has been selected to screen at Byzanfest along with 11 other short-films. Although the short film has not been nominated for any awards it can still have a chance of winning the AUDIENCE FAVOURITE AWARD.

This is awarded to the film that receives the most number of 'likes' on the Orthodox Filmmakers & Artists' YouTube Channel. You can view all 12 films via the YouTube link from the OFA Byzanfest Official Website which will lead you to the official Byzanfest viewing page to view all 12 films. If you have troubles, please use this link.

Justin's short video that did not make the awards is based on the tour I give in Taybeh: Tour of the Palestinian Traditional Parables Home.

The Permit Story

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

I pray and hope you are well.

For those interested to share updates with their older students in Sunday School, I am sending a link to my latest interview on Ancient Faith Radio: www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/features/a_christian_on_the_west_bank

Today, I am happy my husband received a travel permit to come to Boston, while there are many denied permits daily and the policies that violate human dignity continue.

We will show an expression of our personal non violent action with the film "Palestine, Beer and Oktoberfest Under Occupation." Monday, Feb 3rd, 7:00 pm, Reading Room, Hellenic College/Holy Cross, 50 Goddard Ave, Brookline, MA

Forgive me to share a message from Samia Khoury, a friend in Jerusalem:

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

Wishing all of you, a most blessed Holy Christmas, with sincere good wishes during these most holy days,
Maria


 

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

It is under unimaginable conditions of Apartheid that Christians in Bethlehem continue to share the Good News. Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!  The Orthodox Holy Nativity Liturgy is always celebrated on the Old Julian calendar but culturally and socially since after the Oslo Peace Agreement (1993) all Christians have united to celebrate Christmas day on December 25th. It is always expected that the president of Palestine shows up at the midnight service both times or at least that is what the late Yasser Arafat use to do to embrace the Christian community during the most sacred day of Christ’s birth.  Specifically, in the Holy Land, Christmas is celebrated three times: Catholic, Orthodox, and Armenian (Dec 25th, Jan 7th, Jan 19th ).

All efforts are being made with the new mayor of Bethlehem being a woman, Ms. Vera Baboun to have diverse and distinctive activities for this holy city to attract pilgrims. This December 23rd, across the globe, Activists for Peace will light a candle, say a prayer, or send healing energy in solidarity with the Palestinians in Bethlehem and in the Holy Land.  From Bethlehem Nativity Square, a prayer vigil will be held for Peace in the Holy Land and including all people suffering from conflict particularly in Syria. 

December 21: Turning our Eyes to Bethlehem

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

I wish all of you a blessed Holy Christmas celebration with your loved ones. As I am celebrating Christmas in Boston with my family it is with a heavy heart to know about the tragedy in Connecticut. Prayer is more important than ever. May our New Born Lord and Savior Jesus Christ have mercy upon us and save us from all evil around us. Forgive the repeat in this recent blog, but it is meant to keep our hope in the Good News. With sincere good wishes during these most holy days,

Maria


 

Turning our Eyes to Bethlehem

By Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

"Let all the earth worship you, and sing to you Shout with joy to God, all the earth!"

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

It is that special time of year where all eyes might turn to Bethlehem to receive the Prince of Peace in a place where peace simply does not exist right now. Although during this year’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people on 29 November, the United Nations General Assembly made a symbolic historic vote to grant Palestinians non-member state status which nine countries refused but 138 confirmed the existence of Palestine.

It is the same day, by the way, in 1947 Palestine was partitioned to create the State of Israel and the ethnic cleansing began for a pure Jewish state which continues to cause the day to day suffering of all people in the Holy Land shrieking down the Christian presence to less than 2% . So the complicated story continues with one nation’s great glory to another nation’s great catastrophe when more than 500 Palestinian towns were erased from the map and more than 750,000 people were forced to leave their homes at gunpoint to save their lives.

September 15: Which Soldiers Do You Like?

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

On the new calendar we desire to wish all of you a most blessed, healthy, happy and wonderful Church year.

The internet is buzzing with the news for September concerning Palestine to be recognized or not to be recognized by the United Nations and truthfully speaking whether we are recognized or not, on the ground nothing will change. We will continue to be a people who celebrate culture, heritage, traditions and values. However, all around us we see more and more Israeli settlements. We are technically in only 22% of historic Palestine, but still we cannot seem to have this small piece of land for any type of Free Palestine because Israel has a greater aim at 100% Jewish homeland. The settlements now take up more than half of the West Bank and control all boarders, roads, and natural resources. Last month we spent over ten days without running water. Do not be tricked by your mass media that Palestinians are terrorists, because each and every single day we have the Israeli army cheating us out of our basic human rights: thus some of us cannot maintain our peace and cannot keep the non-violent actions. But for us who witness for the peace and love of Christ, we shall continue a peaceful resistance. Please find my latest article aimed at promoting our village festival and we ask you to keep us in your holy prayers for this unique event because it is truly part of our non-violent action.

Christ is in our Midst, a blessed ecclesiastical year to all of you,

Maria


 

Which Soldiers Do You Like?

By Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

August 11: Promoting the Husband's Village

Dear Friends of St. George Taybeh,

Sharing the following promotional article with you in case you wish to share it with people in charge of pilgrimages. And, also to let you know that the Palestine News Network (where this article appears online) offers alternative news. Our tourism is seriously affected by what is happening in the region in general and the Bethlehem and Jerusalem hotels are just empty. We hope you will keep us in your prayers for peaceful times ahead and by the way, please give glory to God even for simply things like water since Taybeh has not had running water for about ten days now.

With sincere good wishes on this most holy day,

Maria


 

Promoting the Husband’s Village

by Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

I have become a fanatic with inviting people to visit one of the most ancient places in Palestine where we enjoy a deep rich history of Palestinian culture and faith in my husband’s village of  Taybeh  where I have lived for the last sixteen years but have been visiting for over thirty years.  It is not the easiest thing in the world to be promoting a different face of Palestine but I find myself part of the group that  works for a modern, moderate and liberal Palestine.  

A free Palestine with basic human rights for all.  I might say in our case, the basic right, to brew beer for beer lovers since Taybeh in modern times is becoming famous for its Palestinian Beer, the first micro-brewed beer in the Middle East and the first Palestinian product to receive franchise and produced in Germany under the Taybeh Brewing license.  

June 29: Taybeh in the New Millenium

Dear Friends of St. George Taybeh,

Praying and hoping all of you are well and receiving many blessings from God on this most holy day. Christ is in our Midst! Thank you for helping us with our church projects in Taybeh whether financially or with prayers. I would like to share with you an update and the following article that was written for This Week in Palestine (July issue) reflecting the general work in Taybeh under my husband’s leadership as mayor which we hope is coming to an end but the elections scheduled July 9th were cancelled again. The Taybeh Education Fund established in Norfolk, Virginia will have a new home with the Annunciation Church in Little Rock, Arkansas where we are getting help to be a non profit charitable organization with the $60,000 raised to serve as an endowment educational fund helping our college students with an annual scholarship for local tuition in Palestine. The Taybeh Orthodox Housing Project is building the 19th and 20th home this summer which means the tenth duplex building with the grand total raised since 2000 reaching $165,000. Most of the homes are skeleton unfinished units but six families have completed their home on their own and settled in while others are partially finished. Fr. David Philip Khoury, our first cousin just finished an amazing renovation project of our St. George Church and the interior looks more beautiful than ever. Come visit us! Please feel free to share our news with others, any church, blog or your local paper; and know we continue to survive with your prayers. Ask your church to provide a link to us, www.saintgeorgetaybeh.org,

In Christ’s love,

Maria


 

Taybeh in the New Millennium

By Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

April 23: Paschal Greetings

Dear Friends of St. George Taybeh,

"Come ye and receive light from the unwaning Light and glorify Christ, Who arose from the dead."

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

On this Great and Holy Saturday we have just celebrated the Miracle of the Holy Fire from the Life Giving Tomb of Christ which appeared approximately at two in the afternoon local time in Jerusalem. Huge celebrations took place in Ramallah with over ten Scout groups both Christian and Muslim where my husband as Mayor of Taybeh and I went to wait for the Holy fire joining the Mayor of Ramallah, Jannette Michael, a faithful Orthodox Christian. The local protocol calls for the Ramallah governor to be present and as a Muslim woman, Dr. Laila Ghanam was holding the flame from the Miracle of the Holy Fire in respect to our Christian traditions marching in the streets of Ramallah. It was a great honor for the first time in the Holy Fire celebrations to have His Excellency the Prime Minister of Palestine, Dr. Salam Fayyad join the entire Christian community with other ministers from the Palestinian Parliament and on behalf of the President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas. This amazing day reflects a great hope for our Christian presence in the Holy Land. At about 5:30 pm the Light of Christ reached our village of Taybeh and we placed it on the altar of St. George Orthodox Church following a beautiful ecumenical procession of chanting and more scout groups. Truly the Lord is Risen!

May you always be guided by the True Light of Christ that we witnessed on this holy day.

With sincere wishes for a most blessed Holy Pascha to all of you, Maria

April 11th: The Remarkable Miracle Continues to Happen

Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

A tremendous miracle continues to happen every year at the same place and at the same time in Jerusalem no matter how many of us Christians are disappearing from the Holy Land. The terrible conditions of the Israeli military occupation and the fanaticism of extreme groups has contributed to our Christian population dropping even way below 2% of the total Palestinian population of four million people in Gaza and the West Bank. Even inside Israel proper, the Christian population is also less than 2%. Some days, I feel I am living in a museum by answering the same questions over and over to the few visitors that show support and solidarity by visiting not just the holy shrines but the living stones of the Holy Land, the Christian people in the communities like Taybeh where I have lived for over sixteen years.

March 21st: A Mothers’ Day Confession

By Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

The biblical land of Canaan has been my home since the failed Oslo Peace Agreement when my husband, Daoud, returned to his home village of Taybeh. Sometimes I sit in the Middle of the Wilderness thinking it would have been easier if he simply married a nice girl from his village. I am sure she would pronounce everything perfectly well and travel much less than I do. I spent the whole day driving in historic Palestine, to take my husband to a business meeting passed Haifa with the required permits, of course, practicing the pronunciation of my son’s name and still after a three hour drive one way and twenty five years of practicing saying “ Canaan “ something is wrong with my accent. As a Greek, I simply cannot pronounce my son’s name correctly in Arabic and what a great name he has. It is his grandfathers meaning the land of milk and honey and all of historic Palestine where the first Canaanites dwelled given my first born son his deep roots and rich legacy of being Palestinian today. I got smart and gave my second born son a Greek name, so I have no trouble whatsoever saying “Constantine.” I seem not to be able to say anything appropriately in Arabic realizing that I have even pronounced my husband’s name incorrectly for over thirty years. Elena, my daughter, begs me not to speak Arabic.

March 6: Revolution Continues in Great Lent

By Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

There are so many revolutions happening all around me, I am not sure which one to pay attention too. You lose count of the innocent people who die daily protesting for freedom and democracy in other countries. “Taste the Revolution” has been our company slogan for the last six years but the type of revolution happening in Taybeh has always been a peaceful one, a non violent one. We believe you can have peaceful resistance without guns and weapons. We are fighting the good fight by making a premium high quality product so we can inspire people to choose Palestinian products and help boost the economy. We are trying to practice non violent action in a very violent environment where in the month of February alone, seven people were killed and the Israeli settlers have uprooted more than 800 trees in Palestine. It was a huge disappointment to say the least about the U.S. veto of the UN Security council resolution condemning continued settlement construction by Israel in the Palestinian Territories. This was totally opposite from what President Obama says in press conferences and in the media. I don’t understand the language America speaks anymore. I am seriously trying to see the Light of God in the darkness.

Miracle of Holy Fire in Jerusalem

The keynote speaker at the Orthodox Institute this fall will be Dr. Maria Khoury of Palestine. Here she shares about the miracle of Holy Fire in Jerusalem.

Carole

--

Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

April 26, 2008 - Pilgrims from all over the world gathered in Jerusalem today to witness the greatest of all miracles-the Miracle of the Holy Fire. The miracle has turned into a magnificent cultural event but many simply could not get anywhere near the Holy Sepulchre. The soldiers, the police, the large crowds, the noise, the drums of the Boys Scouts and the Girl Scouts anxiously waiting to receive the Holy Fire from the Life Giving Tomb of Christ is a day long adventure. It was a miracle in itself that Sam and Janet from our Sister Parish, Annunciation Church in Little Rock attended.

It was an exciting celebration with the sound of many languages at the same time where representatives of many churches from all over the Holy Land come to receive the Holy Fire and carry it back in small lanterns to their particular churches for the Midnight Resurrection Service. Special permits were issued for Christians from Gaza to enter Jerusalem but the large crowds meant no entry to the Holy Sepulchre.

It is on this Great and Holy Saturday that the Holy Fire was received by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, His Beatitude Theopilus as it has been done every year, on the same day, in the same manner, at the same time, at the same holy place of Christ's Life Giving Tomb. This is the miracle that allows us to believe that Christ is alive and offers eternal life. This is the miracle that tells us that Christ is truly among us. This powerful miracle is another way that God communicates. As we chant in our Midnight Resurrection Service: "Come ye and receive light from the unwaning Light, and glorify Christ, Who a rose from the dead."