- Palestinian couple to address Willmar audience on Middle Eastern Christianity
WILLMAR — Michael Zoughbi, a Palestinian, proudly traces his Christian heritage back 1,000 years. He was born and raised in Bethlehem but considers the Holy Land his home. At one time, Christians accounted for more than 45 percent of the population there. Now, the percentage is about 1.7 percent. Zoughbi says Christians are leaving the area to escape bad economic conditions and travel restrictions brought on by decades of Israeli occupation. Zoughbi and his wife, Carmen, are in Willmar this week for speaking engagements and will discuss Middle Eastern Christianity. In addition to speaking engagements, Zou-ghbi is coordinating the sale of olive wood carvings to help provide income to 46 Christian families in Bethlehem so that they can remain there. The couple has first-hand experience with travel restrictions that arose as a result of their birth places. He was born and raised in Bethlehem and has been given a green ID card. His wife was born and raised in Jerusalem and was given a blue ID card. They’ve been married since 1983 and have six children and three grandchildren.
The couple has two homes, one in Jerusalem and one in Bethlehem. Jerusalem was part of the West Bank before 1967. After 1967, the Israeli government included it as greater Jerusalem and they call it Israel, he said. “For me it’s very hard to be in Jerusalem without getting any permission. For those with green ID, we need permission (from the Israeli government) to be in Jerusalem,’’ he said. “I am not allowed to be in Jerusalem or to be in my home in Jerusalem without having permission.’’ He says those with blue ID can go anywhere they want. “To us, they consider us the West Bank people. … We are a different part of the Israeli state or the Palestinian state or the Holy Land area and we are limited in our transportation. We are not allowed to go in other areas, even Palestinian area sometimes. We are not allowed to move material from Bethlehem to Jerusalem or from Bethlehem to Ramala without having permits,’’ says Zoughbi...
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The ocean, impassable by men, and the world beyond it are directed by the same ordinances of the Master. ~ I Clement 20