"How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13)
As a mother living in the middle of the wilderness raising my children in a small Christian village, I often reflect if peace and freedom for Palestine will come during my lifetime. My father-in-law, Canaan Daoud Khoury, who was so proud to be the son of a priest did not flee into the refugee camps in 1948 when he lost his job at the post office and place of residence in Jaffa but instead returned to the small little village of Taybeh to start life over where his father was the Orthodox priest. My father-in-law, Abu Daoud, was very instrumental in influencing us to return to Taybeh and helping invest in Palestine after the Oslo Agreement because he had great hope that Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side and have a prosperous future together.
These beautiful dreams of a two state solution were shattered for so many of us during the reoccupation of the Palestinian Territories in the Second Uprising where we experienced the worst of the worst in our daily lives. Thus, Abu Daoud passed on to the Lord spiritually hoping and believing that peace and freedom could come to Palestine. But the rest of us were left behind feeling that it has been a long time since l948 seeking basic human rights for Palestinians. Psalm 13 reminds me of the great hope that many Palestinian Christians hold on to as we are baptized on to Christ our Lord and are called to be witnesses in the very land where He revealed His plan for salvation to humanity. The daily struggles, however, sometimes bring us thoughts of despair. Palestinian Christians cannot help but feel forgotten at all levels because we are in such desperate need to create bridges between our communities in the Holy Land and Christian communities across the globe. The connection with Christian communities can be our life-line not to be forgotten and to reinforce that we have a sacred mission to keep our Christian presence in the Holy Land.
I held on to the false dream that if wealthy Palestinians returned from abroad and invested in their beloved homeland truly a great economy could be boosted for better job creation. And also if my children learned Arabic, were raised close to a loving extended family it would help establish a deeper sense of identity in their life so they could grow up to achieve their fullest potential knowing they had deep roots in Palestine as Christians for thousands of years. In the last six years we have seen anything but the opposite since investors cannot survive a collapsed economy and children are traumatized going to school under Israeli guns.
However, there is fundamentally something unexplainable to walk the footsteps of the Lord. And we pray it is the Will of God that some people will remain in the precious land of Christ's birth to worship Christ our Savior and to witness His love and peace to others. It is thrilling living in Taybeh known as Biblical Ephraim in the Judean Mountains knowing that Christ came into this area before His crucifixion.
"Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim..." (John 11:54).
Our village of Taybeh is the only all Christian village that remains in Palestine twenty minutes outside Jerusalem before Jericho with 1300 residents all of whom are Christian. Following the l967 Israeli invasion of the West Bank thousands of people from Taybeh have emigrated to Australia, America and Europe due to the politics, bad economic situation and daily suffering faced under military occupation. The village is located between Jerusalem and Jericho in the biblical land of Judea known as the West Bank of Jordan and unfortunately does not exist on any modern map.
The Khoury family has worked hard to make Taybeh famous by producing the only Palestinian beer and the only micro-brewed beer in the entire Middle East region. Taybeh Beer is the first Palestinian product to receive franchise and be produced in Germany under our license. We are honored to have a presence in the mother country of beer and this reflects the excellent quality that Palestinian products can achieve. Following the new government elections we feel our mere existence here is a challenge to the Palestinian Authority and to the Israeli Government to protect all citizens of Palestine that might be diverse in gender, religion, and politics. For me personally, Taybeh reflects the democracy that should continue to exist in Palestine but hopefully with the end of the brutal military occupation. Pray with us that the Lord will not forget the faithful.
The Taybeh village has always been under the protection of our patron Saint George ever since Constantine the great emperor built the first church to be named after St. George in the Holy Land right in our little village. We have been blessed not to have seen the destruction and bombings that have happened in nearby Ramallah and other parts of Palestine during the Israeli reoccupation. For two thousand years this tiny little village has had the blessing to maintain a Christian presence in the Holy Land. We must transcend beyond the bloodshed and terror and wait with faith in God. At the end, our final destiny is the Kingdom of God so we pray for God's mercy as we live under Israeli guns. In the mean time we must walk with the Cross that Christ offered us and preserve our Christian roots in the land of Christ's Holy Resurrection.
Dr. Maria C. Khoury is the author of "Christina Goes to the Holy Land," a children's book that walks the footsteps of Christ and "Witness in the Holy Land," human interest stories during the Uprising available from Sabeel Jerusalem and www.paltime.com
Maria C. Khoury was born in the US, but moved to Taybeh (biblical Ephraim) after marrying David Khoury, an Orthodox Christian Palestinian.