More Information on Our Speaker
Maria (Kouremenou) Khoury is the author of Orthodox Christian children's books including Christina Goes to the Holy Land walking the footsteps of Christ. She is a graduate of Hellenic College (l982), Harvard University (1985) and Boston University (1992) with a doctor of education degree. Born in Tripoli, Greece, she was raised in Denver, Colorado.
Maria is the author of Witness in the Holy Land (distributed by www.HolyCrossBookstore.com), a publication reflecting personal experiences living under military occupation with her husband the honorable Mayor David Canaan Khoury and three children Elena, Canaan, and Constantine. Her articles have been published world-wide in numerous newspapers and magazines and have been translated to various languages bringing awareness of the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
Dr. Khoury is a volunteer at St. George Greek Orthodox Church of Taybeh, Palestine, (www.saintgeorgetaybeh.org) fundraising for a housing project to help sustain the small Christian community. She has also spent three years training teachers in new classroom strategies in the Latin Patriarchate Schools throughout Palestine. She served as the only female principal at the Friends Boys School of Ramallah (l996) and worked closely with church leaders in Jerusalem as a consultant for the World Council of Churches (2004) and also headed the project to establish the International Academy of Art-Palestine (2007). She serves on the Advisory Council of World Vision Jerusalem, the Taybeh Education Fund which she founded and another non-government organization called Juhoud for community and rural development; She was a speaker at the International Bishops' Conference at Bethlehem University (Jan 2004) and over fifty churches throughout the United States. Maria Khoury has organized three successful village festivals in Palestine, Taybeh Oktoberfest 2005/06/07 boosting the local economy.
The Khourys returned to the Holy Land (1995) following the Oslo Peace Agreement boosting the economy with an investment in a microbrewery producing the one and only Palestinian beer, "Taybeh Beer" (www.taybehbeer.com) and diversified (2001) to help farmers in fair trade bottling Taybeh Olive Oil (www.taybeholiveoil.com). The "Christina Books," published in Jerusalem promote ancient Christian values, centuries-old traditions and spiritual growth:
Christina Goes to Church (1992)
You Are Special: An Alphabet Book for Children (1993)
My Orthodox Counting Book (1999)
Christina Learns the Sacraments (2001)
Christina's Favorite Saints (2002)
Christina Goes to the Holy Land (2003)
Christina's True Heroes (2005)
Coloring with Christina (2007)
A Message from Maria Khoury:
Greetings from Taybeh where today St. George Greek Orthodox Community celebrated The Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Old Julian Calendar, thirteen days later than the New Calendar. As Fr. Daoud Philip Khoury, our first cousin was conducting the Liturgy in the morning, thousands of Christians who had permits for only one day were crowding the Qalandia checkpoint to get into Jerusalem either to pray or shop. Many Palestinian Christians have a tradition to venerate the empty Tomb of the Mother of God and light candles on the left and the right of the staircase leading to the crypt. The lit candles down a hundred steps is a magnificent site itself as people pass the tombs of Sts. Joachim and Anna on the right and the tomb of St. Joseph the Betrothed on the left. This morning I prayed in Taybeh were also Fr. Tawfiq Nasser, our retired priest, has celebrated the 50th golden year of service to Christ and in June received the special blessing and cross during a special service officiated by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilus III. However, three days prior to the feast day for the Mother of God, as is also a tradition here in the Holy Land, I had the great blessing to be in the procession where the Greek Patriarch with all the faithful walked the icon of the Holy Mother of God from the convent next to the Holy Supulchre down the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, through all the stations of Christ’s passion to prepare for the celebration that took place today in the Church dedicated to the Ever Virgin Mary. It’s an extraordinary and beautiful procession to attend before sunrise and listen to the chanting dedicated to the Holy Mother of God. Not only do people come from all over the world to walk in this solemn procession in remembering the falling asleep of the Most Holy Theotokos but also bus loads use to come from all over Palestine. With the restrictions of only having a one day permit on the feast day, Palestinian Christians are missing out on these centuries old values and traditions that have maintained our deep Christian roots in the Holy Land. My son Canaan will soon return to Boston for college so he was thrilled out of the three months summer vacation to be allowed one day to visit Jerusalem. The excitement was overshadowed by the hundreds of people at the checkpoint and the long wait. Thus, holding the permits, the American passports and using an Israeli registered car, I tried to help him reach Jerusalem faster via another checkpoint (Hizma). The soldiers, of course refused to let him or my husband David, the mayor of Taybeh enter Jerusalem. I tried to plea with the soldiers that the day was ending and the permits were expiring at 10 pm so I really wanted to take my family briefly into Jerusalem. I said please, “they have American passports.” “Please they have a permit” Please conduct a random act of kindness we identified ourselves and we are unarmed civilians.” Other than pure misery and harassment, I cannot understand why Palestinians who are also holders of a valid American passport and go to the trouble to follow the crazy Israeli regulations of getting a valid permit cannot use it at the Hizma checkpoint and must be confined to only one checkpoint that always has hundreds of people waiting and hours backed up. Why can illegal Israeli settlers enter the West Bank from any checkpoint they wish and Israeli products flood the Palestinian supermarkets from any checkpoint they wish? But it’s pure discrimination and an outright violation of human rights for Palestinians. I am thinking that on each and every holy day we constantly seek God’s divine grace and love just to have the strength to survive in a land sanctified by Christ Himself but made violent and miserable by the occupation forces. Thus as the Ever Virgin Mary was a source of consolation and edification to the Apostles two thousand years ago, may she continue to be so for the Christian community in the Holy Land so that we may keep our true hope in Christ our God.