The Gift of Peace
Abraham's House as I call it, is officially known here in Jerusalem as the hospice of 'St. Vincent de Paul'. It is a big institution run by the Daughters of Charity just beside Jaffa Gate. It welcomes old age people, abandoned children and people with intellectual disabilities. I have had the joy of meeting the group of men with a handicap who live there. There are eight of them. Two are Palestinian Muslims, three are Palestinian Christians and three are Israeli Jews.
Abraham welcomed me the first time sitting in his wheelchair. He had a bob cap on with two words written on the front: No Fear. There was no need for additional explanations, the message was very clearly reflected in the eyes underneath the words... eyes full of mischief and light. Aoni is Christian. He is also in a wheelchair. Silver white hair and clear blue eyes make him a great hit with the Palestinian nurses. Boutros (Peter) also Christian is very much the father figure. Almost hunch backed he murmurs the whole time in Arabic which he thinks I understand. Unless he's being polite in order to make me feel at ease ! He is very kind. Bahjat is Muslim. He lived for many years in the streets of the old city.
Once a week I go for a walk with this strange and wonderful group in the streets and parks nearby with an Irish girl who knows them well. It's quite an experience. Palestinians who know them for many years come up and greet them by putting their hands on their heads in a sort of gesture of welcome and blessing. Then a little further on Israelis come up and greet the group recognising their own. The joy that these meetings give to those who approach is quite visible. Up until today this is the only group that I have met with representatives of the three great religions of this land not only living together day by day, but also walking hand in hand in the streets of Jerusalem together !
The building is just on the western jewish side of the city. For our first outing we went to a small park close by which is just on the beginning of Jaffa Street ( where a number of bomb attacks have taken place in the last months). This is a park which they like and frequently go to. When I realised where we were I turned and looked at Abraham. He looked at me with what seemed to me to be a glint of humour in his eyes. Just above them I was aware of the two words on his cap: No Fear. I can honestly say that I hadn't felt as safe, since I had arrived in Jerusalem many weeks before, than I did at that precise moment.
A last person I want to mention from 'Abraham's House' is Hananne. She is a young girl with a severe handicap. She is about seven years old. She has a very lovely expression in her eyes. She was abandoned in such a way that nobody knows her exact age, who her parents were or where they were from. No-one knows if she is Palestinian or Israeli, Muslim, Christian or Jew. We only know that she is Hananne. And we cherish her as such. A 'daughter of man' says Phil Kearney as there was once a Son of man... who came to gather together in unity the dispersed children of God. All of Abraham's children in the same home.