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The Pontifical Mission library in Jerusalem also was in response to a community need. It began in Brother Eugene’s time, 1956-1965. It was one of his solid achievements. He started it by asking pilgrims to bring in books of all sorts, but he particularly wanted up-to-date books about the Church. The Secular Institute of the Teresians were made responsible for the administration of the libraries, and they continue in that role to this day.

Gradually, over the years, other libraries have developed. The library in Bethlehem was originally in the Greek Catholic church premises. The brothers at the newly built Bethlehem University proposed that the library be located there. Catholic Near East made a huge financial contribution to the university, and they built the library as a service to the people of Bethlehem. It’s fulfilling its original function, that is, children whose homes are limited and provide no room for study now come and work there.

Of course, it’s doing far more now. The Pontifical Mission library is quite separate from the university, which has been closed since late 1987 by order of the military governor. As a result, the library is still functioning. It is, in fact, serving that same population not allowed access to the university.

Eventually, after 1967, there was talk about a library in Nazareth, and eventually it was opened.

The Pontifical Mission’s sponsorship of the Gaza School for the Blind also was a response to a community need. There has always been a history of blindness in Gaza. It was thought a very valid thing for the Pontifical Mission to do, to address themselves to this problem, as they worked for people of all religions.

During the 1970s we were well into projects. I was responsible for the endowed beds in St. Joseph’s Hospital directly following the ’67 war. The Pontifical Mission has increased the number of beds in response to the intifadah.

The Society for the Physically Handicapped in Bethlehem was initiated in the ’70s. I became advisor to the local committee. I refused to take part on the committee. I said, “You run your own committee, and I will advise.” It has grown and matured through the years, and now there is the new center going up in Beit Jala.

There also has been coordination of efforts among the relief and aid agencies over the years. I worked very closely with the Mennonites, particularly just after the Yom Kippur war. Immediately after the ’67 war was a busy time. Also, with people like Caritas in Jerusalem, we developed an electrification project for villages.

The work, then, was mainly confined to social services – health and rehabilitation, and also institutional support. Mostly community support, I should say, like the Arab Society for the Physically Handicapped. Many of the most community-based service organizations were organized by the Palestinian women.

One thing I feel very strongly about: if you are a Christian and you are representing a Christian agency, there can be no fighting for position. Perhaps sometimes you hope that notice will be taken. Some recognition of the work that’s been done by your organization is important. But this jockeying for position to me is unimportant as long as the work gets done.

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Tags: Jerusalem Education Relief Bethlehem Disabilities