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Affordable housing offered to Christians to keep them from abandoning Holy Land


For decades, Christians have been leaving the Holy Land for other parts of the world, including the United States, South America and Australia, in search of better opportunities and peace.

FR. RAMZI SIDAWI
General Administrator, Custody of the Holy Land
“These are the main reasons why the Christians left the Holy Land, because of the war, the continuous war and the difficulties the war gave to them. Especially the economical difficulties pushed the Christians to start leaving in order to find places where they can work, they can gain money and they can live peacefully.”

That's why the Custody of the Holy Land, part of the Franciscan mission there, has been offering Christians affordable housing and education, with a number of low-tuition schools for kids to attend.

The Custody has over 500 houses in the city of Jerusalem alone; some in Bethlehem and a few in Nazareth. It's working on setting up additional houses, renting them out for no more than 25 percent of the city's normal rental price.

FR. RAMZI SIDAWI
General Administrator, Custody of the Holy Land
“For other communities, where they don't have this possibility of having these houses, a lot of people left. So we understand now that giving this possibility of having a peaceful house helped a lot the Christians to remain here.”

The situation is becoming even more precarious, as Israel is the first country to go into a second full lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Now the tourist industry is completely shut down, and the number of pilgrims is down to zero. This has been a crippling blow especially for the Christian community, whose livelihood relies heavily on these sectors. All of this is added to the long-standing challenges of being a relatively tiny religious group in the region.

FR. RAMZI SIDAWI
General Administrator, Custody of the Holy Land
“We are living among our brothers, Jews and Muslims. We live together. We study together. We work together, and we want to remain. The future for us is the same future for the Holy Land. So what's going to happen for everybody, it's going to happen for our people.”

With the future of the Holy Land so uncertain, Fr. Ramzi is concerned that Christians will be the first to suffer because they are such a small group. That's why the Custody continues to offer them as much support as it can.

CT