It is obvious that our house, whether big, small, fancy or modest, is our shelter and our sanctuary. It is a place where we feel security, receive and give love, welcome friends, and feel the warmth of communicating with them.

For many, the house of our childhood is like a haven or even a piece of heaven.

Every family is entitled to have their own house. It is a basic human need. Not having one is an indicator of poverty and deprivation, while being expelled from one owns house is a form of injustice and oppression.

In the year 1967, some months after the Six-Day War between Israel and the Arab states, my mother, who was living in the Bethlehem area, decided to go to Jaffa of Tel Aviv for an important visit. She was born there and lived there until the year 1948. The so-called war of independence between Arabs and Jews, called the Palestinian Al-Nakba, obliged them to escape. They hoped to come back two weeks after the war ended. My mother was then 22 years old.

She remembered well her former house in Al-Ajameh quarter. Once in Jaffa, she headed immediately to the house, where she lived and cherished the memories of her childhood.

She knocked at the door and asked kindly to visit the house. She was allowed in after she introduced herself. The new inhabitants were Jewish immigrants from Bulgaria.

Not invited to sit down, she could not spend more than 10 minutes, enough to inspect all the rooms.  Nothing changed since 1948. During all the visit, a terrible silence prevailed. Some tears fell from her eyes. She bid farewell, thanked her hosts, and left with sadness.

When she told us the story, she added: I wished they would have invited me for a cup of coffee, and to remain in the house a little bit more.”

My mothers story makes me sympathize with the thousands and thousands of refugees who left their houses without compensation or hope of return, the Ukrainian families who escaped their houses destroyed by an insane war, the Syrian and Turkish families whose houses were completely destroyed by the last earthquake, the families of young Palestinians whose houses were destroyed because their sons committed a suicide attack against Israelis, to the Jerusalemites who seek a license to build on their own land but cannot because their land is deemed to be green. In the best scenario they might need at least 10 years to change its nature from green to brown and red (re-zoning which costs fortunes and is unaffordable for one family).

Houses in Jerusalem are very expensive. It is the same more or less in the major cities of the world.

We kindly ask governments to help the poor classes to have their own houses.

The poor will then feel more dignity and equality, and will become better citizens.  With the money spent on destructive weapons, every human being can have his own house.

Jesus. who said, Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Mt. 8: 20)—only he can fully understand the misery of the families deprived from having a house or from the use of their own house.

We, together, pray to Him to inspire governments and authorities to care for this basic human right.

World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel

About the author :

Bishop William Shomali is the general/Latin patriarchal vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine.


The impressions expressed in the blog posts are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

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