Those Who Do the Never-Ending Work
Conflicts go on in the Holy Land, but the most certain victories are those of Christian women such as Sister Theophane, Nora Kort and Georgette Rizek.
text and photos by Lucinda Kidd
More than half of the 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied territories are refugees. 325,000 of them live in shanty towns throughout Gaza and the West Bank. Without an infrastructure to meet health, financial, and housing needs. the refugee camps are awash in social problems.
In the resulting bitter, often violent climate of the Holy Land, native Catholic and Orthodox women serve Muslims and Christians in their homeland. Their Christian mission is vital for the lives of thousands of Palestinians. Their work also shows that the Church is alive here.
We want to help families help themselves, says Nora Kort, an Eastern Orthodox social worker from Beit Hanina. a suburb of Jerusalem. We help them keep their dignity. Arab pride may keep Palestinians from accepting hand-outs. So the aid villagers receive must empower villagers to be more self-sufficient.
Nora Kort is a troubleshooter. She identifies the dire needs of communities and locates the necessary resources. Nora battled red tape six years to procure a license to build a small Orthodox retirement home across from the Jerusalem airport. Now in the ground-breaking stage, it will be the West Banks first housing for the elderly. When the two-story facility is finished, it will provide meals, full nursing services, and a gardening project for 10 to 15 elderly Arabs.
With a soothing lilt in her voice and a powerful command of English, she dispels the Western notion of the subordinate Arab woman in a male-dominated society. She works tirelessly, morning to midnight. She often must talk her way through intense questioning at military checkpoints to visit towns and villages in remote areas. Nora is direct, determined, and fearless a natural leader.
Through the Pontifical Mission, World Vision, and her own project, Loving Care, Nora has connected 167 needy Palestinian families with Western sponsors.
This people-to-people support brings the refugees desperately needed medical and dental care, as well as some financial assistance. She is president of the Arab Orthodox Society for the Relief of the Sick, a charitable organization in Jerusalems Old City. She also coordinates youth clubs, health outreach programs, and services for the handicapped.
Beneath a detailed map marking Arab villages displaced by the State of Israel, Nora reminds Americans that the Palestinian people, especially Arab Christians, are more important than the Holy Lands religious monuments. The presence of the Arab Christians is ignored by most of the American Christians, she says. Its not the sites we care for; its the Arab Christians we care for.
Since the Palestinian uprising began last December, the needs of the refugees have increased, Nora says. With thousands of men in jail, many under curfew and unable to go to work, and others boycotting jobs in Israel, families are without incomes.
We have been attending to many, she says. But, admittedly, there are many more that need help. Some villages closed by the military cannot be reached easily. At the same time, funding is never adequate.
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Tags: Children Palestine Refugees Sisters Health Care