3rd Archaeological Excursion – Qumran & Masada

The path of stone rising ahead in rugged perfection, the light playing over the grey stones of the desert, the silver lined clouds hovering over the Dead Sea, as if it were the finger of a pianist playing a melody for the day, all set the magical day out, as the students of STS visited the historical Qumran Caves and the magnificently standing Masada.

On 9th November, the students left for the third archaeological excursion at 7:30 am from STS reaching Qumran around 8:45 am. The trip was guided by Fr. Yunus, who made the trip productive and insightful with his extensive, yet beautiful explanations about the history of the places. Qumran sits at the vertical cliff of the Judean Desert, rising up from the shores of the Dead Sea. History tells us the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered here by the Bedouins in 1952. After spending approximately 2 hours, the students moved on to the next location – Masada.

After an early lunch, a large group of students decided to go up walking, while the rest ascended by the cable car. Energized and enthused, the students started the ascent with smiles on their faces and sense of wonder in their eyes. The snake trail, about 2.5 kilometers in length, never seemed to threaten as it offered a spectacular desert landscape along with the Dead Sea that kept our eyes glued. Upon reaching the summit, Fr. Yunus briefed us on the history of the event of the “Siege of Masada.” He stressed that the location is famously known for the fortification of Herod the Great and the 967 Jewish men and women who chose to end their own lives rather than suffer enslavement or death at the hands of the Romans. Masada kept all the students overwhelmed and awestruck as they started skimming through the historical lanes. After spending a considerable amount of time, the students headed back to Jerusalem, enjoying the sunset and rain, reaching STS around 5:45 pm.


Robinson Gidh

9th November 2022

2nd Archaeological Excursion to ‘Ein Gedi’ and ‘Dead Sea’

The second archaeological excursion of the academic year 22/23 included a series of visits to the Judean Desert. The group left Jerusalem for the shores of the Dead Sea where, guided by the great expertise of Fr. Yunus, professor and archaeologist at STS, they visited Ein Gedi’s nature reserve.

Whilst hiking up, along the trail in the desert, the students were surrounded by the magnificence of the oasis and with its resonant sound of water. It’s remarkable to think that this very road had been used by the Romans at the time of the Second Revolt and that centuries before the great encounter between David and Saul (cfr. 1Sam 24) took place here. Not only that, most likely this site has inspired the writing of the book of the Song of Songs. Even though at David’s time the area was not inhabited, many traces of ancient people can be found here which attest to the importance of this location. The most impressive example is the Chalcolithic temple that must have served as a central sanctuary for the region. Tribes just emerging from the Stone Age came to this plateau above the waterfall to worship. From this temple a spectacular view over the oasis and the southern part of the Dead Sea can be enjoyed and a sharp observer will easily spot, near the springs, the presence of groups of Ibexes, a type of mountain goat, from which comes the name Ein Gedi (spring of the kid) .

Finally, the visit ended at the modern tent-shaped roof that protects the synagogue ruins. Established in the 3rd century AD, the synagogue remained in use, with various alterations, until the 6th century. This corresponds to the information provided by Eusebius of Caesarea, according to whom Ein Gedi was "a large Jewish village”. The synagogue faces north, towards Jerusalem and the interior is decorated with a large mosaic, very well preserved, depicting four marsh birds in the centre and a pair of peacocks in each corner. Inscriptions list Adam's descendants, then the Patriarchs and the three companions of the prophet Daniel (Dan 3), as well as the synagogue's benefactors.

‘My love is a cluster of henna flowers among the vines of Ein GediS.of S. 1:14; cf. Sir. 24: 14)

Now, after having visited Ein Gedi, the group fully understood why the author of the Song of Songs considers this place heavenly and wonderful. How couldn’t they be struck by the beauty of the date palms, the greenery of the oasis, and the gurgling of the springs that descend the valley to flow into the Dead Sea? Enjoying such beauty, the excursion ended at the Dead Sea shores where the group was able to benefit from the therapeutic effects of the water and enjoyed a couple of hours rest.



Federico Schullern

27th October 2022


On 15th of October 2022, the Salesian Pontifical University Jerusalem Campus organized its annual Dies Academicus. The event commenced at 9.30 a.m. with a short prayer service. The Ratisbonne choir invoked the presence of God through their choral piece, ‘Amazing Grace.’ More than 70 participants graced this event through their active presence and participation. The entire event comprised two important phases of the academic life of the Institute. In the first segment Fr. Andrzej Toczyski, the Principle of the University reminded the students the importance and purpose of the academic gathering. Bro. Nathanael George then gave a powerful visual presentation looking back on the highlights of the past Academic Year 21-22.

Later, as part of the annual academic tradition, Fr. Eric John Wyckoff welcomed and introduced the first-year students through a creative PowerPoint presentation. This was followed by the presentation of all the Professors and Teaching Staff and the area of their expertise. Fr. Matthew Coutinho did the honour of introducing all the teaching faculty members of the University. After these presentations, the entire college gathered at the entrance to pose for the official annual picture of the ongoing year 2022-2023.

The second phase of the event began at 11.00 a.m. in the Don Bosco Hall. After a solo performance of 'Laudamus Te', sung by Deacon Florimond Kazadi Kabale. Fr. Stanislaus Swamikannu sdb, the Rector of the Ratisbonne Salesian Theologate, introduced the Speaker and the Guest of Honour of the day, Rev. Fr Andrea Bozzolo sdb, the Rector of the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome. In his Lectio Magistralis entitled “The Reciprocity between Faith and Sacraments”, he shed light on several relevant issues. His lecture was well prepared and well presented, followed by a question and answer session for further clarifications and interactions, moderated by Fr. Stan Stanislaus Swamikannu. The program came to an end with a vote of thanks proposed by the Principal, Fr. Andrzej. A solicitous fellowship meal was offered for all the participant.

Indeed, the Dies Academicus was a rich moment of learning and faith sharing for us all.

We are grateful to the Christian Media Center who covered the event. You may view a short video made on the occasion, that summarizes the event.

Jameson Motilal Nayak

15th October 2022

1st Archaeological Excursion ’22 – Tel Dor, Caesarea Maritima, Apollonia

On 30th September, the Salesian Theological University’s first Archaeological Excursion of 2022-23, took place journeying to the ancient coastal cities of Tel Dor, Caesarea Maritima and Apollonia. A day before the excursion, Fr. Yunus gave a brief explanation about these sites with maps and it was a great help for us.


Firstly, we reached the beautiful ancient city (national park) of Tel Dor. It was the ancient city of the Phoenicians but was later taken over by Israelites during the unification of Northern and Southern Kingdoms. We could visit the ancient church remains, the amphitheater and human settlements. The longevity of modern investigation at Dor has meant that a body of evidence has been amassed, substantial enough to contribute productively to questions of both local and broader significance, among them the beginning and development of Phoenician culture, patterns of trade in the eastern Mediterranean and the impact of imperialism and changing foreign domination on the cities and cultures of the Levant. Evidence of human settlements, storage, boats, and potteries areas, all from the Iron Ages was visible. The Phoenicians’ purple dye pits are one of the main features of this site. They collected sea shells and boiled them in these pits, thus obtaining the purple dye which was used by the royalty.


Next we visited one of the most important cities during Jesus’ time, Caesarea. It was a small town including Straton’s Tower during the time of Phoenicians. In 25 B.C., Herod the Great built a splendid sea port, one of its kind during his time, in honour of Augustus Caesar. It turned out to be one of the greatest sea ports of the era. As a matter of fact, it was also the port from which Peter and Paul sets out for Rome. There are still remains of the port to be seen, and also, the amphitheater, hippodrome, Roman wall, Byzantine church, Aqueduct and many more historical wonders.  We could see many other Roman remains of statues, granite columns Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, which embellished the roman buildings, adorned with mosaics and Greek inscriptions. It was amazing to see the mighty hippodrome, the walls of the crusaders which have stood for more than 1500 years. Both byzantine and crusaders walls which once protected the city, still stand today. One of the greatest discoveries of this site for Christianity is the inscription with mention of Pontius Pilate, which historically proves his existence. The warehouse complex (c. 75 by 40 m) built c. 500 CE, consists of six warehouses of three distinct types: courtyard warehouses, a corridor warehouse, and a complex warehouse. A marble head of Emperor Hadrian was discovered in one of those warehouses.  In short, in the big city of Caesarea we saw a history of 500 years.


Apollonia-Arsuf is located in the north-western part of the modern city of Herzliya, on a kurkar (fossilized dune sandstone) ridge overlooking the Mediterranean shore. This is a place where beauty and history meet together. Also known as the ancient city and fortress of Arsuf, Apollonia was once home to the Persians, Romans and Crusaders. In 1994, excavations of the area revealed that Phoenicians settled there in the 5th or 6th century BC and it was officially part of the Persian Empire. In the Hellenistic period, the Greeks renamed the city Apollonia, after the Greek God Apollo. The area later fell to the Roman Empire during the occupation of the Holy Land. It was during this time that the city grew in size and importance and a harbour was constructed. Apollonia became the second largest city in the entire region with primarily Christian and Samaritan residents. Eventually, in the 12th century, the city became a Crusader stronghold where the Battle of Arsuf took place during the Third Crusade. Today, the ancient city, located on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, is part of the Herzliya Municipality and has been intensively excavated since 1994. Here we saw the weapons used during the crusaders war with the Muslims. We could actually see the three defence walls the Crusaders built to protect themselves, and also the stone shells with catapults which were used in war.

Again, I would like to repeat that Apollonia is a place where ‘beauty and history meets’.



Raymond Joseph

30th September 2022

First Years Study Trip to Galilee – 22nd September 2022

“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times” is a truth which validated the STS 1st year students’ recent Study Trip to Galilee.  For three days they visited the revered sites connected with Jesus's hidden as well as public life in Galilee. Thirteen students with the STS Principal, Fr. Andrzej Toczyski SDB, and expert guide, Fr. Yunus Demirci, OFM Cap., pilgrimaged by bus, starting early in the morning from Jerusalem on Friday 16th September 2022.

The Students, and at the same time pilgrims, first stopped at the Mount of Beatitudes where they received a profound explanation about the traditions and evolution of the site. During the Holy Mass, they contemplated the eight Beatitudes mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew. The next steps led them to Tabgha (from the name Hepta Pegon - seven sources), the site devoted to the miracle of multiplication of bread and fish and to the Church of Primacy of St. Peter. At the Capernaum archeological site it was possible in a concrete and tangible way to remember foremost the healing of Simon-Peter's mother-in-law in his own house, the expulsion of the unclean spirit of a man, and the healing of a centurion's servant. Fortified by the fish of St. Peter in a restaurant, the students enjoyed a half-hour boat trip on the Sea of Galilee and the beautiful sceneries to be seen from the boat. Then they travelled to Nazareth, to the Betharram guest house.

Saturday 17th September was also a very tight day. The morning was devoted to the Basilica of Annunciation, the nearby museum, Church of St. Joseph, the Grave of a Just man, Mary’s two wells and the Synagogue of Nazareth. After lunch the pilgrims ascended Mount Tabor by bus and during the Holy Eucharist contemplated the Transfiguration of Lord Jesus Christ. In the evening, most of the pilgrims and students took part in a solemn procession at the Basilica of Annunciation, accompanied by a rosary prayer in several languages.

On Sunday 18th September it was planned to visit Cana in the Galilee, but both, the Latin and Orthodox churches were not open on Sundays for visits. However the morning prayers on the site gave opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ first miracle. A special visit to the archeological site of the ancient city of Sepphoris (Tzipori) followed. This has, according to some traditions, connections to the parental house of the Virgin Mary and hidden life of St. Joseph.

The way back to Ratisbonne led the group via Haifa with its beautiful Stella Maris church at Mount Carmel. After Holy Mass and refreshments, the group stopped to take some photos at the Bahá’í gardens in Haifa with its wonderful view on the city bay.

It was an exceptional opportunity for the students to stand on the same places as Jesus stood, to touch, smell, taste, feel, imagine, perceive not just intellectually but by the whole person, all dimensions including the spiritual one. Especially at the beginning of their studies, may this experience help them to deepen and broaden their horizons of faith.


Matej Fabian SDB

22nd September, 2022


The final year students of STS, finally presented their syntheses which marks the culmination of their academic studies and 4 fruitful years at STS.

The syntheses presentations began on the 27th of May and ended on the 7th of June.

    27th May

Joaquim Belito - Christ’s Resurrection: Foundation of the Christian Faith and Life and the Driving Force of the Church’s Mission

Cornelius U-sayee - Integral Justice, Salvation in Christ and the Christian Way of Life

    30th May

Isac Kinda - Jesus Christ: Reconciler of Humanity with God the Father and Salvation through the Christian Life

Thierry Uyirwoth - Missionary witness to Christ in today's world

Chima Agbo - Creation and Salvation: The Origin and Eternal Destiny of the Human Person

    31st May

Matteo Vignola - Christ's Kenosis and Exaltation at the heart of our Salvation

Audace Niyibigira - The Divine Mission and Human Participation in the Salvation Won for us by Christ

Vlastimil Vajdak - Oral presentation

    1st June

Gianluca Villa - Chosen in Christ to share in his Glory

Francis Hiuhu - The Unconditional Self-giving of the Trinity in the Paschal Mystery and the Church’s Discipleship

Prabhu Jesumani - God’s Unconditional Love for His People, Revealed Through Jesus Christ by His Words and Deeds

    2nd June

Warayut Charoenphoom - The Christian Vocation to Holiness and its Fulfillment in Life and Liturgy

Nguyen Manh Hung - The Divine Sonship of Jesus at the Centre of the Church’s Faith, Life and Mission

    3rd June

Pham The Hien - Human Love Redeemed and Elevated by the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ.

Edwar Gobran - The Kingdom of God on Earth and in Heaven: The Pilgrim Church and Her Eschatological Fulfillment

    6th June

Nelson Mwale - Marriage and the Family in the Mystery of Redemption and in the Church’s Witness to the World

Nguyen Trung Hieu - God’s Plan for Human Life in the Salvation of the Universe

    7th June

Sathish J. Antony Raj - Christ – the Icon of God: The Relationship Between the Visible and the Invisible in Christian Life and Worship

Raju Morcha - The Fulfilment of the Scriptures by Jesus Christ and the Proclamation of the Good News for the Salvation of All

We wish the final year students as they embark on their journey to the priesthood.

9th June, 2022

The STS Study Trip to Jordan

If Jordan is as beautiful as they say, I mean at least as beautiful as its queen,  then visiting it in all its splendor becomes a must: one can even give up the desire to travel through the same lands where St. Paul travelled, and which for long centuries were home to the Ottoman Empire, to enjoy its wonders. That the Jordanian option was driven more by a scruple of conscience – wars, near duplication of prices, etc. – than by an actual biblical-historical-archaeological-aesthetic balance, is of secondary importance at this point.

Plan the days. Book the visits. Hire a bus, two buses. Choosing a guide who could offer actual knowledge and not just entertainment. Fill out online forms for entering and leaving the country, the countries. Remind students about the PCR test anti-Covid. Being informed that on the bus will be not only students, Professors and a guide, but we will be accompanied throughout our Jordanian stay by a uniformed tourist police officer – whether his presence was really necessary remains to be seen, but you know how these things go: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. In short, the labours of organization, took their toll, but the game was worth the effort.

Beginning of first day: Jerash, the place in the Gospel where Jesus healed a possessed man: an architectural and urban gem on the borders of the Roman Empire; Rabbath-Ammon, present-day Amman, capital of Jordan, and one of the Hellenistic cities of the Decapolis in Jesus' time - End of first day. Start of second day: Umm Ar-Rasas, otherwise called by the archaeologist who discovered it, a fellow named Piccirrillo: u' marr' sass, the sea of stones; unfailing pause in the mosaic store, kofiahs, and other eventualities, owned by some distant or close relative of the guide – when in Rome, do as the Romans do, we've already said that, haven't we? – and then on to the top of Mount Nebo, where Moses died – the burial site is still unknown to most (Nabi Musa? who knows), and back down to Madaba. End of second day. Start of third day: Petra. No need to comment, the Nabataeans did wonders, and what appears in the Indiana Jones movie is only a tenth of what the site offers to the contemplation of tourists – the Bedouins, of course, and their characteristic way of approaching you and doing business are an integral part of the experience: like it or not, you can't help yourself. End of third day. Night in the desert. Start of fourth day: Wadi Rum, Red Desert: for those who have seen the movies Dune, Aladdin, The Martian, several scenes were shot there; passage through the land of Israel; bathing in the Red Sea; and return home.

Balance of the experience: given the premise, ten out of ten. We feel sorry for the fortress of Macheron; Herod will forgive us: it will be for next time.

Gianluca Villa

5th May, 2022

FOUR DAYS TRIP TO GALILEE 31st March to 3rd April

Why did the students of STS choose Galilee for a four-day trip? This article answers that question. The synoptic gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us that although he was born in Bethlehem, Jesus was a Galilean from Nazareth, a village near Sepphoris, one of the two major cities of Galilee (Tiberias was the other one). One of the advantageous reasons of studying Christian theology in the Holy Land is that it is the birthplace of Christianity. It is the place where Jesus was born, suffered, was crucified and rose again. That is why it is called the Holy Land. The Holy land connects Christian theology students with their faith. This is done by visualizing as well as re-imagining the events that they read in the Holy Bible. This was the case for us STS students.

Anyone who claims to follow Christ, must walk as Jesus walked. Walking like Jesus is a challenge for all students of theology. They were challenged physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The common testimony is that, every experience is new. No one comes back the same from the study trip.

The visit to the Baptismal Site

As students of STS, we visited the Baptismal Site especially with a view to renewing our faith. This site was chosen because it is of great sacred significance. It is the third holiest site in the Christian world (after the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem). At this site, we renewed our baptismal promises. Thereafter, each student had a time of personal prayer. This was a moment to renew one’s faith in Christ, but also to purify the desires in the following of Christ.

Much of our time was spent in prayer. We stayed in a place close to Basilica of Annunciation in Nazareth, where we had Mass every day, prayed the rosary and other devotional prayers. We had also visited St. Joseph's Church ⸺ in the Old City of Nazareth, modern-day Northern Israel. It was built in 1914 over the remains of much older churches. It was built in the Romanesque Revival style. Such a visit is a point of reflection on the incarnated Christ and the foster fathership of St Joseph.

The visit to Nazareth Village

Nazareth village is an historic city in northern Israel. It is the largest Arab city of the country. The majority of the inhabitants are Muslims. The choice to visit the Nazareth village was made in order to realise the dimension of ecumenism among many Christian denominations and inter-religious dialogue with other religions. The other interesting thing for theology students is that, in the New Testament, Nazareth is associated with Jesus as his boyhood home, and in its synagogue, he preached the sermon that led to his rejection by his fellow townsmen. When we were there, we read: Lk 4:14-30 Jesus is denied by people of his native village. Then, we reflected on such questions as: in what way do I deny Jesus? Which disposition should I take when I am denied as a carrier of the good news?

During our trip, we also hiked to the top of Mt Tabor. This is the place believed to be the mountain of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, where Jesus began to radiate light and conversed with Moses and Elijah. Each student had gone back to the synoptic gospels of (Mark 9:2–13; Matthew 17:1–13; as well as Luke 9:28–36); we meditated on the experience of Jesus and sought to relate it to the here and now. We could imagine walking in the place where miraculous actions happened. Indeed, we walked and lived that experience. It was wonderful. It was prayer in action as it involved a lot of energy to climb. Besides, on the mount of transfiguration, we prayed for spiritual transformation, peace in our hearts and in our families and in the whole world.

The other place which needed much energy is the mount of beatitudes. This is the place where Christ gave his moral teaching to his disciples. These morals are commonly known as the beatitudes. We also visited Tabgha (the place of Multiplication of bread). The trip ended with Mass in St Peter’s Church, Tiberias.

During this study trip, everything may be lost but at least, we were spiritually nourished. We will probably continue shining with the graces we got from all the key Biblical holy places. The Galilee attracts many Christian pilgrims, as many of the miracles of Jesus occurred, according to the New Testament, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee—including his walking on water, the calming of the storm, and feeding five thousand people.

What miracles did Jesus perform in Galilee?

The places we visited in Galilee are at the centre of the whole life of Jesus. During His ministry, Jesus performed more than 40 miracles including healing the sick, changing the natural elements of nature and even raising people from the dead. Having walked this journey of faith, all students, and everyone we prayed for, had received the grace of healing and restoration. This implies that this was not only the study trip but also a journey of faith and renewal.

Kelvin Mutalala

20th April, 2022


Speeches presented at the joint assembly of the Theologates at the Holy Land


A list of the Speakers are given below:

1. Rev. David Neuhaus SJ : 'The Synod and Learning to Listen'

2. Rev. Amjad Sbarra OFM : 'The Synod and Mission of the Church'

3. Ms Saswan Bitar : 'The Synod, Women and Ecumenism'

4. Ms Nadine Bitar : 'The Synod, Youth and Laity'

5. Mr Dima Ezrohi : 'The Synod, Hebrew Speakers, Migrants and Diversity'

6. Ms Dima Kalak : 'The Synod, and the Marginalized'

Father David Neuhaus SJ: The coordinator of the Synod Preparatory Committee.

The Synod and Learning to Listen

In the Vademecum, the Official Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches, it says: “The Synodal Process is first and foremost a spiritual process. It is not a mechanical data-gathering exercise or a series of meetings and debates. Synodal listening is oriented towards discernment. It requires us to learn and exercise the art of personal and communal discernment. We listen to each other, to our faith tradition, and to the signs of the times in order to discern what God is saying to all of us.” (2:2).

Central to the Synodal process is learning to listen. We are called to admit that we are not so good at this. We are formed to talk, to preach, to teach, to encourage, to reprimand. We talk a lot, perhaps a lot too much. We feel uncomfortable with the silence that is necessary to allow others to speak. We feel driven to fill the silence with words, our own. This blocks out the voices of those who want to speak, who need to express themselves, those for whom and with whom we must become Church. The Synod seeks to allow these voices to emerge, to be heard, to perhaps provoke discomfort but to ultimately lead us to a more authentic way to be Church in our age.

At the Transfiguration, the disciples gazed on the Transfigured One and heard the voice saying: “Listen to Him”. However, the Resurrected One then came among the disciples and listened to them on the way to Emmaus. He only then responded to them, hearing their pain, their sense of being abandoned, their despair. In listening, we must learn to discern, discern the voices from our own, discern the myriad voices that address us, distinguishing where we are being led.

The synodal process seeks to renew our ability to listen in a world that is very noisy indeed. In order to listen, we must discern His voice among the voices, distinguishing His voice from the cacophony of voices that try to derail us. His voice is the voice the gives life, that opens the horizon that seems shut, that offers good news in a world that too often plunges us into despair.

Listening is contextual. The context for listening is the communion that unites us, in which we must all participate. Listening must be renewed, relearned, reappropriated in each generation so that the Spirit can breathe life into the Word in the midst of our world, the world in which we live and move and have our being. It is in the communion that is enabled by listening that we become a community, participating together as one body in the life of Christ our head, who sends us on the mission of bringing Him into the world so that it can be redeemed.

Let us listen to Him with ears opened a new, with hearts aflame and with rekindled desire to follow him. Let us hear him in all the usual places: in the Scriptures; in the Church; in our hierarchy (the Holy Father, the bishops, priests and deacons) … but let us also listen to Him with renewed commitment in our communities (religious, parish and families and friends), in the encounters in our apostolates (schools, hospitals, youth ministry, homes and social outreaches). Let us seek Him out in the world beyond the borders of our institutional Churches, among other Christians, among the believers of other religions, among those who no longer believe or have never believed and yet have much to teach us. Let us go especially to the margins, among the forsaken, the abandoned, the poor and the hopeless for we know that there he awaits us to offer us guidance and comfort!

Father Amrad Sbarra OFM

The Synod and the Mission of the Church

 1- The Mission of the Church is to break through the darkness of the world with the light of Jesus Christ, and to let everyone understand and reveal God’s design for Healthy and holy relationships.

2- Hearing the anxiety and demands of the people.

3- In answer of the anxiety on the problems, the church is called to provide the people with tools to protect their life and the life of their families, by helping those in need and answer the call and the will of God’s call to be leaders in the world and to deal with challenges, to survive with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

4- Empowering each other to be key partners in success, and a guardianship for everyone in need.

5- The Church must teach strategies which has been founded Through meditation on the word of God, to achieve the best results for improving the worldview and the sets of thoughts for everyone who is related to the Church.

6- This is the path of the Synod in which we are capable to give each one of us a role to be a part of a better world.

 Ms. Sawsan Bitar

The Synod, Women and Ecumenism

 I am so thrilled to be part of this important event, though it comes at a time of uncertainty in so many ways, the current pandemic, unemployment, limited resources … etc. On the other hand, it has brought some hope to people whose voices are not usually heard in the church., people who are very tired, and disappointed.

As a woman of faith, I would like to share with you what it means to me personally to be walking this journey. I will start by reflecting on the story that was chosen to guide us in the synod, and the powerful image that was used, “the Way to Emmaus”.

Two disciples, a man and a woman are walking together, sad, heartbroken and disappointed because of the injustice that happened to their teacher.  Jesus comes and walks with them and listens to their concerns. This picture has brought hope to me and I said to myself, by the will of God it is the beginning of equality in the Church, having women and men on the same level in ministry is something that I have always dreamt to see in my church.

Our mission now is to help more women to be involved in the church, with no fear of discrimination between women and men. “We are equal”. Let us start walking together with our Bishops and Priests on changing all discriminating rules and actions between the people of God, because this is what Jesus taught us.

From now on, I think it is not possible to go backwards. It is about time to reach out to women who are far away from the church and to listen to one another, to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. We must create a healthy environment for them to feel safe in sharing what is going on in their hearts and minds as Jesus did with the two disciples of Emmaus, and to walk together towards a better future for our community and the Church.

I have also been involved in the Ecumenical journey for almost 25 years. I remember when I started as a coordinator for the Clergy Program at Sabeel - the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre - I was afraid of not being accepted as a woman to bring together Heads of Churches and parish Priests from all traditional churches in one gathering, whether it is a meeting, a conference, a spiritual retreat or a worship service. By the grace of God, things have changed. We have reached a point where I now, confidently, organize ecumenical worship services, conferences and retreats for clergy from different church denominations.

Being part of the synod committee - walking together towards ecumenism - I am trying to spread the word to other churches through our Ecumenical programs.

On October 22nd and 23rd, we had the Annual Clergy Retreat that took place in Jericho.  Forty-two clergymen and their wives from the West Bank, Galilee and Jerusalem, representing the different churches, attended this retreat.  One of the sessions was led by Emeritus Patriarch Michael Sabbah in which he introduced the Synod to the participants. His talk was very powerful and he explained what this Synod means for them as Clergy. He encouraged the priests from the different denominations to listen to one another and to all people of faith in order to reduce the gap between them.

The priests usually speak about themselves as ‘we’ and the lay people say ‘them’, and it is now time to say ‘us’. Because all of us together are the church.

The second event was the Sabeel Annual Ecumenical Christmas dinner where we had around two hundred people including Bishops and clergy from the different denominations. The Christmas message was given by Sister Ghada Nehmeh, a member of the Synod committee. In her message she spoke about the synod and the importance of the ecumenical spirit and the work among the people of faith.

We are also trying to involve young people in the spirit of ecumenism by organizing special ecumenical worship services for the students in the different Christian schools.  So far, we have had two services. The students were so happy to see the Bishops and Priests from the different traditions pray together with them. This program was organized jointly with the Catechetical Office of the Latin Patriarchate.

I hope and pray that one day we will all be united as one Body of Christ. The Synod encourages us to dream and this is my dream!

Ms Nadine Bitar

The Synod, Youth and the Laity

Allow me first to introduce myself, my name is Nadine Bitar- Abu Sahlia, I was born and raised in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem but after I got married, I moved to live in Reineh a small village between Nazareth and Kofer Cana. I obtained a BA in Youth Ministry and a master’s degree in Christian Ministry from North Park University/ Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. I worked for Terra Sancta Schools Central Office for two years. I currently work at the Catechetical Office of the Latin Patriarchate and also serve as the General Secretary of the Christian Youth in Palestine “The Youth of Jesus’ Homeland”.

I am standing here today to deliver the voice of my fellow youth who have been for so long disconnected from the Church due to many challenges that they have faced when it comes to expressing their faith or just for trying to get spiritual help from a consecrated person.  Unfortunately, we have lacked the message of our church’s Synod for years, and allow me to be honest with you, it will not be an easy task to restore this message. As I was reading the Spiritual conversation of this Synod, I could clearly see its main focus, active listening. For the past 20 years I have searched for so long for a consecrated person who is willing to accept me as I am. I am not saying that we do not have those persons in our diocese, we do, but we need more of those people to help the youth find refuge in our churches.

The spiritual conversation document says the following: “the spiritual conversation focuses on the quality of one's capacity to listen as well as the quality of the words spoken. This means paying attention to the spiritual movements in oneself and in the other person during the conversation, which requires being attentive to more than simply the words expressed. This quality of attention is an act of respecting, welcoming, and being hospitable to others as they are. It is an approach that takes seriously what happens in the hearts of those who are conversing. There are two necessary attitudes that are fundamental to this process: active listening and speaking from the heart.”

Based on the most recent study done by Juhod Foundation, having YJHP and the Catechetical office as partners for this study. We have come to one of the most unexpected percentage of 57% of the youth have lost their trust in the church authorities and any activities done through a church-based organization. This number should be concerning, and it needs to be discussed as we work on the Synod now and for the years to come. In fact, YJHP has been doing the work of the Synod years before the Vatican has thought about the idea.

We, the youth, do not only need someone to speaks to us from the heart, we also need someone who is willing to accept us from the heart. Someone who allows us to speak from the heart, without fearing the judgmental look of the person hearing. Many of our youth have experienced the lack of the listening process in our church’s for so long that they do not know how it feels like to be listened to. We need action to make sure that our words were heard. Just like faith is incomplete when it is not brought out through action and so is listening, it’s incomplete when no action is taken to fix what was broken. For this reason, YJHP has been working on establishing a headquarter centre for the youth to find refuge in. The main purpose of this centre is to create a safe haven for the youth. To make them feel welcomed and accepted. To make them feel that they are respected. To make sure that they are in a place that would pull them back from the darkest periods of their lives into the light of God. This centre has been our dream for years, and as part of the church’s action towards fulfilling the needs of the youth this centre should be its priority. We need your support to help those who live in exile away from the church even though it is within walking distance from them.

I pray to our Heavenly Father, to help those youth discover His presents in their lives. In addition, to the Holy Spirit to help us and guide us to reach our goal of creating a youth centre that will serve the youth, despite of their backgrounds. Our dream is to see the youth of Jesus’ Homeland spiritually alive to restore the church relationship with them.


 Mr. Dima Ezrohi

The Synod, Hebrew Speakers, Migrants and Diversity

 The synodal process is taking place in the vicariates of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem for Hebrew-speaking Catholics and for migrants and asylum seekers. Of course, although we speak only of two vicariates, the reality is much more complex: the Vicariate for Migrants and Asylum seekers encompasses a vast array of communities – Philippine, Indian, Sri Lankan, Eritrean, etc. – each with its concrete reality and, therefore, its synodal process, in a way. Given that there aren’t many native Hebrew speaking Catholics, the same is true for the St. James Vicariate – every community, even every believer, embodies a different reality in the church’s life. However, I’m not here to do PR services for my Vicariate in front of His Beatitude or Fr. David.

Today I want to speak to the future priests of the Patriarchate and say that a synodos also has to be an exodos: we have to go out to meet each other so that we can walk together. The migrant and Hebrew speaking communities cannot undergo the synodal process independently. It simply will not happen by each migrant community sitting in its church – or, more realistically, the apartment they rent a chapel – and thinking for itself. We are one church, and so we need to have one journey. The situation is complicated: although in the political landscape the Hebrew speaking society to which both vicariates firmly belong is the regional hegemon and majority, the situation is reversed in the life of the church; suddenly – the substantial majority turns to a minority and demands to be recognised as a partner for a journey. This is a difficult task: I can understand why a Palestinian Christian, who has enough refugees in his vicinity, might not pay much attention to the plight of Sudanese or Eritrean asylum seekers in Tel-Aviv or my dear friends who right now make their way out of the carnage fields in Ukraine. We all have a lot on our plate, especially the Palestinian people, so to demand from the Arab-speaking majority to make a place for us as partners for the way is to request something difficult. Unfortunately, Jesus never promised us an easy journey.

The Patriarch spoke about the church being a laos and not a demos: a people convoked, called out (ek-klesia), and not a social reality like the state or the polis. Sometimes we risk becoming a demos by letting political and ideological issues – hard though they are – decimate the church's unity from within. However, this is not only an obligation but also – and mainly – a gift. When we listen to the voices from the peripheries, we enrich ourselves. I always think of the image of the People coming to the civilised land of Canaan from outside, from the desert, from the limes, the limit. This is the biblical perspective, and it should be ours as well.

Actually, if we dare walk together, we will discover that there is something that unites all Christians in this land: our crosses. The experience of migration, being a fugitive, economic hardships, suffering from the unexpected twists and turns of life, and being the minority in a non-Christian society – all this is common, in some way at least, to all of us. When I teach catechism to migrant children in south Tel-Aviv, I often use a YouTube video that depicts Christ’s work of salvation on the cross: there is an abyss, we are on one side, God is on the other, suddenly, the cross descends from above and forms a bridge, a delicate but tangible pathway between both sides. This is what the cross can do for us; it can make us recognise our shared identity.

Last but not least: I want to talk about imagination. The Holy Father talks a lot about us daring to dream about the church of the future. But, before we can dream of the future of our local church, we must be able to imagine the reality of our catholic neighbour. Can you and I know it might be controversial to say, imagine the reality of an 18 years old Filipino Catholic whose most significant concern in life right now is her upcoming service in the IDF? Not only that, who dreams and prays to God to be stationed as a combat soldier, together with her Jewish friends? I know it is a harsh reality for my Palestinian sisters and brothers, but it is the reality of the Church. This young woman comes to the church and seeks answers, advice, accompaniment. Can we imagine her situation? We have to; she is a member of the body of Christ, as much as anyone else. Of course, her dreams might have been different had she met her sisters and brothers from the Palestinian side. She might have formed a more aware and complex picture of the situation in our beloved land. However, we didn’t give her a chance to meet them because we were overwhelmed by the difficulties, the divides, and daily realities. Finally – let us all walk together, it will not be easy, but it is the only way.

Ms Dima Kalak

The Synod and the Marginalized

 What makes this Synod a bit more special than any other previous synod is the fact that it came at a time when people are still struggling with COVID19.

This pandemic has affected every one of us differently whether in terms of health, or socially, emotionally, economically – it has affected our parents, children, friends, neighbours, and the list can go on.

In one way or another, we have all become vulnerable in our way.  For the last two years, vulnerability became even more obvious among those who were already struggling. Professionally, as a social worker, I think it has been one of the most challenging periods because of the level of marginalization and vulnerability that we have witnessed in the Holy Land was unprecedented.

For months, I was not able to welcome people or see them face-to-face and had to spend hours on the phone doing what I can to support these people. It was not easy. Many heads of households panicked because they could not provide basic needs to their families whether because they have lost their jobs or main source of income.  Couples struggled with their marriage, I was hearing more and more about marital problems including fighting, arguing and even physical violence. Many of elderly grandparents who were already struggling with loneliness and had to be isolated from loved ones for prolonged periods.  Many of our children have lost focus in virtual education and many did not even have the means to connect like their peers to online classes. Many people feel ill in one way or another- their illness ranged from light or grave- for some of the people they suffered as they saw their family members becoming ill. There were families who have even lost loved ones unexpectedly.

For me today, the Synod is more than a spiritual journey for the church. Restoring faith is of course part of it but restoring hope to the people who have struggled is also part of this journey.   The Catholic Church has played a critical role in the restoration of this hope and continues to do so even till today. The role that we play is an important one towards these vulnerable and marginalized whether providing basic needs, or group and individual counselling sessions or short-term job opportunities, medical support, medication and much more.  The need was so immense.

I was even encouraged by the solidarity and responsiveness of many families who wanted to help those who were struggling; many of the local Christian families have donated goods, clothes, or even cash to help us reach out the largest group of people possible.  A very powerful witness for feeling with the others.

Even if the pandemic ends today, there is a lot of rehabilitation that we have to do as part of the synod. So how can we continue this journey of restoring hope to those marginalized? How can we mainstream this Synod to those marginalized?  The first and most important things that we need to do is to Focus: we need to get these vulnerable people back on our top priority list deliberately and intentionally. This includes all those who are suffering: families, children, women, etc. For the last two years, our daily routine has changed so much that may have lost some focus; before we start the journey, we need to get our people right in front of us. Become focused and stay focused!

Healing through listening: there is so much brokenness out there; people continue to struggle in one way or another; there is so much healing to do with these people. The first step towards healing is listening. Not every person who approaches us wants money. Many need ears and hearts to listen to them with their struggles; couples are burdened, elderly continue to struggle and the first step towards their healing is that we listen to what they have to say.  Open the doors of your homes, churches and hearts…

Reaching out is another critical part. Not every person who struggles will come to us. We must look into the horizon to the marginalized who we may have gone missing for the last two years- from the community, church, society, club, society.  Some people may no longer be able to come to us for health or others who have socially felt left out and no longer find a place.  Let us leave our comfort zone to find these who need the help and support. Even when find resistance from people who may be hurting, at least we have done our part. Do not be afraid to go out to find them.

Action and prayer:  once we have restored focus, made ourselves available and reached out, we should by then know what these people really need.  If it is more than listening, it is time to take action: support maybe emotional or financial or even help people who struggle with their faith and need a prayer.

In all that we to assist these marginalized, we are humbled by our calling to be Christlike – to welcome people who are weary and help them carry their burdens. Here we are called to put them first and being there for them as it is necessary.


1st March, 2022




On Wednesday 9th March 2022, the students of the STS set out for an archaeological excursion to visit and learn about Bet Guvrin – the city of freedmen - and Tel Azekah.


The site is located in the Judean lowlands, approximately 275m above sea level. The Park, known famously as Maresha, the Biblical City, is large, with an approximate area of 1255 acres.

It is said that the remains of this site are from an early Israelite period that lasted till the Hellenistic period and was eventually destroyed in 40 BCE, during the combat among the Herod and Hasmoneans. Hasmoneans On the ruins of this settlement, a small-fortified metropolis was constructed throughout the Crusader duration. In the southern part of the site is Maresha, one of the towns of Judah in the first Temple era. According to (2 Chronicles 11: 8), this was the city built by Rehoboam. In 112 BCE, the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus captured Maresha as a part of an effort to convert the Edomite populace and destroy the town, which was completely destroyed in 40 BCE.

During the excursion, the students spent around three hours learning about and seeing the agriculture insolation complex, the Columbarium cave, the Oil Press Cave, the Villa, the Polish Cave, the Sidonian Cave, the Bath House, the Roman Amphitheatre, the Crusader Fortress, St Anne’s Church, The Bell Caves, the Maize Cave and the Villa. Unfortunately, some places were prohibited due to security, safety and archaeological reasons.

TEL MARESHA, the home of some Jews and Egyptians, is highly elevated, affording an excellent view of the Judean plains. The homes were constructed across the Acropolis, and underneath them, great areas have been excavated and used as cisterns, olive presses, and keep rooms. The Bell Caves are massive quarries from the Byzantine and Early Arab duration. The developers dug out a narrow sphere, beginning inside the caliche deposit, after which they quarried down, widening the pit more & more, eventually growing into a bell-like shape. The largest of the caves reaches 25 m. The Market Cave –within the partitions of the cave over 2000 alcoves were carved.

The Polish Cave – this cave firstly served as a cistern, but later became a columbarium. During World War II, the Polish squaddies from General Anders’ navy visited the area, and on a pillar nearing the ceiling, carved an inscription – “Warsaw, Poland” – and an eagle – image of the Polish navy. The Olive Press – the olive press is one of twenty-two underground olive presses from the Hellenistic period which have been located at Maresha to date. In the cave is a reconstruction of an historic set up for oil. Water cisterns have been located beneath the residences, accumulating rainwater in clay pipes and channels from the alleys, roofs and courtyards. The Bathtub Cave – contains small chambers wherein seats have been carved for using bathers. The Sidonian Burial Caves – these are simply many caves carved out by the Phoenicians residing at Maresha. One cave is referred to as the Apollophanes Cave, due to the fact a discovered inscription was located in it, commemorating Apollophanes, son of Sesmaios, chief of the Sidonian network in Maresha. St Anne’s Church – was constructed during the Byzantine duration, and became reputedly the most important church of its time in the land of Israel.

In the Roman Period, after the Bar Kochba revolt (135 – 132 BCE), Bet Guvrin became the relevant town of the district of Idumea- called Eleutheropolis (City of the Freedmen for short.) At this time, exceptional public homes were constructed, consisting of amphitheatres and bathhouses. The town flourished. Two aqueducts introduced water to the town, one sporting water from close by springs in the location of Tel Goded, and other, longer aqueduct, introduced water from the springs of Mt Hebron.

The amphitheatre – a great construction, in step with the fine Roman tradition for fights among gladiators and with wild animals. It is properly preserved, including the underground tunnels through which the competitors and the wild animals entered the arena.


Ancient Azekah, a crucial fortified town in the geographical jurisdiction of the Tribe of Judah, ruled one of the routes from the lowlands to the Judean Mountains. It is cited in the scriptures regarding Joshua's wars in opposition to the five Amorite kings and to the battle against Israel and the Philistines, whereby David slew Goliath: Azekah was the fortified town of Jeroboam, king of northern Israel.  When the Jewish community returned to Zion after the Babylonian exile, numerous households from the Tribe of Judah resettled at Azekah.


Amadeus Amani Meela

9th March 2022