Jerusalem V1 Station,

Crypt chapelCrypt chapel

The Old Town of Jerusalem is composed of four Palestinian neighbourhoods (Christian, Moslem, Armenian, a mixed nenghborhood where we live, and the Jewish neighborhood. Religious Jews often move into non-Jewish neighbourhoods, but have little or no contact with their Arab neighbours. The Palestinians are refused  building permits and they live in narrow houses, without much comfort.

Jerusalem is burdened with the weight of history and many emotions on the part of all who live there. On the Moslem or Jewish and Christian feast days, it is crowded and the narrow streets overflow. It is difficult to go against the tide. It is the same on Fridays and Saturdays in the streets that lead to the Mosque and to the wall of Lamentations. In the Via Dolorosa, where we live, the groups of pilgrims of all countries succeed each other to pray the Way of the Cross. On  Jewish or Moslem festivals, Fridays during Ramadan or special days in the Palestinian or Israeli calender, Israeli soldiers and policemen are omnipresent in great numbers. These are tense days for everybody.

All this diversity which is visible in dress, in faces, the diversity of countries, of the three monotheistic religions and of the different Churches (13 in Jerusalem), calls us to respect the difference of the other, to welcome universality. All walk alongside each other in the narrow lanes, but do they have a desire to meet each other, to know each other? It is a call for us to open our hearts to all, to try to meet the other, whether on the streets by exchanging a look, a smile, a few words,wherever we are.

Helene Odile visits the elderly in their homes. At the workshop, people of all countries come as well as Palestinian friends, and also Israelis, mostly guides. There, all remember the gesture of Veronica. In 1950, at the time of the foundation of this Community, Little sister Jeanne wrote that sentence which we make our own:

'Every person, whoever they are, like the Lord on the way to Calvary, have a right to meet someone on their path... who will accept to commit themselves with them and for them, someone who will believe in them despite everything, who will believe in the reality of the image of God in them...'

Helene Odile and Rosa Luise have lived in Jerusalem for more than 30 years. They feel comfortable in this city and love it. The fidelity of our 'living with' the Palestinian people, the fidelity of our presence where we are, trying to be attentive, listening, showing compassion, has been expressed one day to Rosa Luise by a young migrant:

'When I was a child, I would see you there, in the workshop. Today, after long years abroad, I still see you there! Hold on!'

The tensions, the injustices, the humiliations which we witness, make us sad. Often we realize our weakness, our sin, our helplessness. It invites us to conversion and to intercession, an intercession bound to the offering of our lives for the inhabitants of this city, of this land, for the entire world.

We also live the joy of friendship, of mutual trust, with Christians as with Moslems, the joy of seeing people seek and find roads to new life. This helps us to hold on. Faith that God is present in the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection sustains us. Faith in the Resurrection of Jesus who tells us: 'I have overcome the world', keeps us hopeful.

The Patriarch Michel Sabbah wrote in his last pastoral letter before leaving his responsibility:

'Jerusalem, the city of Redemption and a source of peace for the world, has not yet welcomed the Redemption or found peace... To see Jerusalem as the city of Redemption and of peace for the world and not for itself, this is what determines the vocation of every Christian in this Holy Land. It is a vocation to be a witness, a vocation to a difficult life today because of the political conflict and tomorrow because life will always be a struggle. We are called to be tasty salt, useful leaven, a light in society and Redemption which is accomplished day by day, in the mystery of God'.

Helene Odile writes from the Old City of Jerusalem:

I have been working for 20 years in a clinic of the Old City and for 11 years in a little Orthodox activity center for elderly people. At present, I continue to work in that center as a volunteer, without a salary. I work a little less and I am more free to take a day off if there is a need.

I do many home visits, about 10 every day. There are so many stairs that the people cannot go out and most of their children have emigrated. I have a list of people mostly elderly and lonely women.

I am very much expected and sometimes I am the only person who visits them during the week. I check their blood pressure, their sugar level, but it is mostly just to have a visit which is important for them. To be listened to, to be loved, is what counts most. In the last few years, many went to the Lord and not always the oldest. I am also going to the retirement home where one of our Little sisters is living and I meet up with many old acquaintances from the Old City.

What to say more? I just love this work even though it is tiring and I am grateful for all God gives us each day.