Help Construct a Pastoral Center for Migrants in Israel
Project Code: 321-01-19
The situation of Christians in the Middle East can be a difficult and changing one for many reasons, including shifting populations. On the one hand, there is an exodus of Arab Christians from the countries of the Middle East. Yet, on the other, there is an influx of Christians who have left their own countries (such as the Philippines, India, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe) for financial reasons and have come here in search of work.
In Israel, today there are between 50,000 and 60,000 Catholic immigrants, of whom 35,000 or so are Filipinos. Providing the appropriate pastoral care for them is a massive challenge for the Church, since unlike the Christians from the immediate region, they do not speak any Arabic. At the same time, a pastoral outreach in English is also insufficient, since in many cases the children of these immigrants now speak only Hebrew.
The pastoral care of the Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel, and indeed the pastoral care of migrants generally, has been entrusted by the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem to the Vicariate of Saint James, and specifically to the care of Father David Neuhaus. The vicariate was first established in the year 2011 and today comprises seven parishes, of which five are Hebrew-speaking and two Russian-speaking.
The pastoral outreach also extends beyond these parishes, since the vicariate also attends to the needs of foreign workers and asylum seekers, above all Sudanese and Eritreans. In addition, there are several dozen Arab Christian families who, for reasons of employment, find themselves living in Hebrew-speaking towns. Their children are taught in Hebrew and learn to speak and think in this language.
Now a center is to be built in the south of Tel Aviv which will bear the name “Our Lady, Woman of Valor.” Here in Tel Aviv, in addition to the indigenous Arab-speaking and Hebrew-speaking Catholics, there are also many thousands of Catholic migrants. The two Catholic churches in Jaffa, to the south of Tel Aviv, are not enough to cater to all these Catholics in Tel Aviv, while the city of Tel Aviv itself does not have any established Catholic presence.
In 2009, a group of Filipinos rented a hall in the south of the city in an effort to meet their needs. Within three years the community had to change its location three times. Today, there are five Sunday Masses in a rented bunker. Yet, despite this, a great many migrants remain without any pastoral care and at times join one of the many small Protestant sects. The overall aim is to build a center for worship, as well as for catechesis, preparation courses for the Sacraments, vocational training and adult training courses. Additionally, the center would provide the necessary basis for an outreach to asylum seekers, in collaboration with other organizations.
The center needs to be in a place that can be easily reached by local public transport. Father Neuhaus is in contact with the city authorities, and in particular with the local mayor, who is well aware of the particular needs in this area. Thankfully, the local authorities are well disposed towards the work of the Church here.
The building, which is still to be purchased and then converted, will serve a variety of needs: on the ground floor there would be chapels for the various different language groups, as well as space for a general assembly room. On the first floor, there would be living quarters for the priest and a general parish center. The second floor would accommodate a small hall and two classrooms, while the third floor would provide accommodation for a community of religious Sisters who are already involved in the pastoral outreach to the migrants. In addition, there would be space for various multipurpose rooms for such things as medical care, social workers, and catechesis, among other needs.
This center is urgently needed for this complex region, and ACN hopes to be able to contribute $9,900. Will you give to help construct this pastoral center for the care of Catholic migrants in Israel?
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