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“Im fortunate to have my brother, Issa, nearby,” Nasri said with a laugh. (Issa works in research and development at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as part of the designing team creating NASA next robotic mission to Mars). “We used to fight as kids. Now I rely on him and his advice.”

Tony and Eileen are proud of their children, but as with all parents, they wish their children lived closer to home.

“If the job opportunities for Issa and Nasri were available here as they are in the States,” Tony stated, “theyd return home. But unemployment for young Palestinian men is quite high.”

Unemployment and lack of opportunity are nothing new for most Palestinians. In 1976, the Jerusalem office of the Pontifical Mission, with financial assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), launched a small business loan program.

“The self-help program helped small business owners enhance their businesses by obtaining loans with practically no or very low interest rates,” Eileen recalled. “We gave modest loans, from $3,000 to $5,000, and many of them were repaid, until the intifada.

“[During the intifada] shops were closed and people were out of work; some participants in the program stopped their payments – they had no money. Yet so many came by the office to thank us.”

Eileen eagerness to “talk shop,” as well as her remarkable memory, demonstrate how she has come to value the Pontifical Mission.

“It is hard to remember everything over the 35-year period that I spent with the Pontifical Mission,” Eileen said. “In fact, I spent more time at the Pontifical Mission than I did with my husband! The work of the Pontifical Mission runs in my blood.”

Tony knowledge and interest in the work of the Pontifical Mission surpasses that of the merely interested husband. For years Tony acted as an advisor for and friend of the men and women who served the Pontifical Mission in Jerusalem.

“Tony Nesnas voluntary contribution to the Pontifical Mission,” says Carol Hunnybun, who co-administered the office with Helen Breen from 1966 until 1982, “was enormous.”

Currently, Tony and Eileen are preparing for the wedding of their son Issa to a Palestinian Christian woman in California. And, as with all weddings and families, the Nesnas family looks forward to a new union and new generations.

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Michael J.L. La Civita is Executive Editor of Catholic Near East.

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Tags: Jerusalem Palestine Occupation