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Mideast Violence Takes Toll on Friends of the Diocese
Bishop's Bulletin (Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
December 2000
Daryl Thuringer
Communications Director

The Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls has been building a relationship with the Church of the Visitation in the small Palestine village of Zababdeh. Located just one and one-half hours north of Jerusalem in the the West Bank region, Zababdeh is located in a primarily Muslim region.

Bishop Robert Carlson of the Diocese of Sioux Falls met the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, and learned of the many struggles of the people in the Palestinian regions. Christians in the regions are a minority and many of the families live in poverty. The average family of eight earns $130 per month.

During a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Bishop Carlson and the pilgrims stopped in Zababdeh for Mass and lunch. During the visit they met Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders, missionaries from the United States serving in the parish and school in Zababdeh.

The Sanders have been involved in international missionary work for the past five years. They find the work rewarding, but during the recent conflict in the region they find themselves in a new climate. "To live here is exhausting - emotionally and physically," said Marthame. "The West Bank is under closure, there are Israeli blockades between population areas, and every day is a constant reminder of occupation: planes fly low overhead, sonic booms rattle the entire building, power is cut off to nearby villages, work is drying up."

Zababdeh has not been a target in the attacks. The Sanders have concerns that there are many ways to attack an entire village without using a bomb. "We are all aware that, if all roads are sealed, then Zababdeh will not have electricity, because the village relies on petrol for the generator," explained Marthame. "It will not have water."

Even in lands under "total" Palestinian control, Israel forbids Palestinians from using wells or digging new ones - so people in Zababdeh, like most villages, must buy water from Israeli trucks. Zababdeh will not have much food, medicine, and other goods that all come from other towns. But we are still extremely fortunate.  The roads have not been sealed, and we have water and electricity, and plenty of food and medicines."

Throughout the conflict the Sanders have been deeply touched. Marthame explained the pain runs very deep. "Losses are not only emotionally exhausting, but because there is not property insurance here, they are financially devastating too, leaving the victims homeless and penniless."

Being from the United States, the Sanders are often questioned about the United States relationship with Israel. Marthame says, "We are disappointed, and hope truly that our Congress and government can itself find balance, such that American involvement in the region might support the lives and aspirations of all residents of the Holy Land."