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West Bank priests stress nonviolence as youths protest Israeli occupation


  • Palestinians react July 27 as they enter the compound known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as Temple Mount, after Israel removed all security measures it had installed. (CNS photo/Muammar Awad , Reuters)
  • Palestinians react as a stun grenade explodes in a street in Jerusalem's Old City July 27. (CNS photo/Amir Cohen, Reuters)
  • An Israeli policeman throws a stun grenade in Jerusalem's Old City July 27. (CNS photo/Amir Cohen, Reuters)
  • Palestinians gather in Jerusalem July 27 at the compound known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as Temple Mount, after Israel removed all security measures it had installed nearby. (CNS photo/Muammar Awad, Reuters)

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JERUSALEM (CNS) -- With tensions still high in the Old City following weeks of violence, Father Firas Aridah completed his work at the Latin Patriarchate early so he could leave Jerusalem for his West Bank parish before any possible violence began.

"There were many (Israeli) police and soldiers, closing many roads," Father Aridah told Catholic News Service in a phone interview once he was back in Jifna's St. Joseph Parish July 28.

Friday afternoon prayer in Muslim tradition is considered especially significant and is required of all Muslim men. Often during volatile periods, prayers at the contested Al-Aqsa Mosque compound have been followed by demonstrations. Sometimes the tensions spread to other sections of Jerusalem, or even to the West Bank.

For Father Aridah and other parish priests in the West Bank, the challenge is to emphasize the Christian tradition of nonviolence while supporting their young parishioners' desire to oppose the Israeli occupation.

Father Aridah said he counsels young people not even to throw stones at the young Israeli soldiers who sometimes come near their village on patrols or in search of men wanted by the army.

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