Take care when dealing with 
Palestinian authorities

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Jericho is the lowest lying city of the World and therefore very hot in summer. I felt this for myself when I visited the city in 1998. In 1999, I supervised a fundraising event (in Switzerland) in order to obtain an air-conditioning unit for the House of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). I feel I have a special relationship with this property and I am greatly saddened by the encroachments that took place on January 15, 2000 (violations continuing).

In the early morning, a gang of about 20 armed men invaded the building, which is situated in Central Jericho. The monks present there were arrested and put in the local jail. Due to an intervention of the American general counsellor in Jerusalem, they were released the same day but found their property was now occupied by men of the Russian Consulate and a few clerical persons from the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP). The MP representatives refused to let them come back to their house, which has been in the possession of the ROCOR since 1936 (before Stalin revived the MP from a small loyal rest of people who had survived his termination). The locks in Jericho were changed the same day.

That same evening, a nun from the ROCOR, Sr Maria managed to enter the chapel of the property. Another nun, Sr Xenia, later joined her. In the meantime, they have been replaced by various monks who are now living in a small container in a small corner of the ground, suffering various daily provocations from some guards. Generally, the population of Jericho have a positive attitude towards the ROCOR-monks but exactly therefore, they are now prevented from any contact.

The following day (after this violation), the official position of the Palestinian National Authorities (PNA) was clarified on page 3 of the Arab newspaper "Al-Qud": The PNA "recognize the existance of only one Russian Church and behave accordingly.....the representative of the Patriarch .....thanked President Arafat and the Palestinian Authority for their cooperation with the Church in getting its lawful rights and for their recognition of one Russian Church .... we are proud today to return it to their lawful owners."

Of course, claiming the MP "the lawful owners" does not make them so. This is already the second expropriation made from the ROCOR in favour of the MP: In the Summer of 1997, the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Hebron (which houses in its grounds the Tree of Mamre or Abraham's Oak, and some spectacular ancient graves, see pictures) was seized in an even more brutal way, the monks there being beaten while representatives of the MP, successively took over the large property in the outskirts of Hebron. Any changes in the relationships between the two Russian Orthodox Churches has since then been frozen.


With such illegal actions, Arafat and the PNA demonstrated that they have understood nothing that is required of a state created on the basis of justice. Accordingly, they have made themselves incredible as partners for a political or economical agreement. Imagine you had established a firm in Palestine and suddenly the PNA claimed (having received an appropriate sum in advance) that it should "legally" belong to somebody else! It is a pity when these economic consequences are imposed onto the Palestinian people after their long suffering in refugee camps and similar, but this seems not to be important to the leading clique of the PNA. Whether the present actions are based on monetary or "only" political corruption is currently unknown and is also not really relevant - the active participation of Russian diplomats tells us that at least the latter is a certainty. Besides, both Arafat and his PLO, and also the MP have had brilliant cooperation from the KGB and seem not to have forgotten anything about the methods used there. Unfortunately, such actions devalue the Palestinian Territories to the level of a banana republic. Bilateral negotiations with the PNA must be valued accordingly, since you cannot trust any organizations who define their justice according to their deliberate will and short-sighted purposes.
The Palestinian State is enjoying wide support from all parts of the World. On the back of previous suffering, that support for the Palestinian people is understandable. The present aid, however, seemingly given without any preconditions, can be understood by Palestinian rulers as endorsement of their criminal actions. Please ask your own government if this is really what they want to support!

John Schou, MD, Lörrach
Written on January 18, 2000, revised June 22 and November 1, 2000


Little has changed in Jericho after this illegal occupation. A trailer was placed on the ground for living of the ROCOR staff instead of the initial place. Repeatedly, the Palestinians made promises and broke them again shortly afterwards. On March 30, after bravely sustaining 75 days under these utterly difficult circumstances, the two nuns were replaced by two monks. Concerning the theft in itself (and the one of Hebron in 1997), nothing essentially new has happened, a reason to warn against forgetting it. The illegal position taken by the PNA demands critical attention whenever possible. It remains speculative why the newsmedia support the Palestinians in this problem (see Modern Censorship and How to distract your attention to a crime). In Europe, and to my knowledge (but please inform me if others can be listed below), only Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has reported honestly and repetitively about the conflict without fearing the consequences.

Updated on April 11/May 28/June 22/Nov. 1, 2000

Newsmedia which have reported circumstances concerning the theft in Jericho in year 2000:
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Jan 26, Feb. 7)
(listing under construction, please fax me contributions on 0049-7621-48794 with indication of source and date).
Updated May 28, 2000.

See further in the background to this violation

Contribution about Mamre/Hebron


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