Glass half full: Could Holy Land water crisis unify?

JERUSALEM — How many times a day do you flush the toilet? How often do you get your car washed? Do you turn the faucet off when you soap up your hands? For most people in Western countries these things are part of daily life, and usually little thought is given to the amount of water wasted when doing them.

But in the Holy Land, a four-year drought has made water yet another precious resource over which Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians are struggling.

Wafa Shatleh, 34, carries clothes to store in her laundry room until her family receives running water so she can wash them in Beit Jalla, West Bank, July 29. (CNS/Debbie Hill)

Wafa Shatleh, 34, carries clothes to store in her laundry room until her family receives running water so she can wash them in Beit Jalla, West Bank, July 29. (CNS/Debbie Hill)

While on the one hand water could be the point of contention — which at the moment it is — I would rather see the glass half full, so to speak, and see it as the issue which unites the region. Instead of politicians grappling over the issue, academics, researchers and environmentalists need to come together to find a solution for everyone’s benefit.

So far that scenario seems far from reality. Despite a few academic conferences and dialogue among environmentalists, everybody is mostly fending for themselves.

Though Palestinian and Israeli experts say their society is careful of its water consumption, on the grass-roots level both Palestinians and Israelis tend to wash their floors by the flooding method, which involves throwing copious amounts of water on the tiled floors and squeegeeing the water out through a drainage hole. Both Israelis and Palestinians want to drive in spotlessly clean cars, and in the summer months some people admit to taking two showers daily. Israeli pools are full and some cities even have European-style fountains.

We all need to take shorter showers, let our cars stay dirtier for a while longer and learn how to generally become more efficient in our water usage.

As Maria Khoury, the wife of one of the owners of the Taybeh Brewery told a group of visitors recently: Even a glass of drinking water left by her children goes to good use. Instead of throwng it down the drain, she uses it to water her plants.

More priests staying in shape

In late June, fellow CNS reporter Chaz Muth published a piece taking an in-depth look at the health of Catholic priests. Muth spoke with several priests from around the country who are staying in shape as well as other church officials responsible for vocations.

The Florida Catholic recently published this story on two priests from the Diocese of St. Petersburg who are staying in shape and how their excerise impacts their ministry.

Preparing for the Olympics … the Jesuit way

The worldwide buzz continues to build for the Beijing Olympics, which will begin Aug. 8. Eyes from around the world will be focused on two American swimmers, Michael Phelps and Natalie Hoff, as they demonstrate their athleticism with world-record-breaking times and growing piles of medals. (Phelps won six gold and two bronze in 2004.)

What few will be thinking about or even realize is all of the hard work and training all of the athletes competing  have done in preparation for the Olympics. For Phelps and Hoff, that training has been heavily influenced by Jesuit teaching.

The Catholic Review in Baltimore recently published this piece about how the Jesuits have influenced the two swimmers and their coaches.

Refugee Catholics and descendants grateful for freedom

About 6,000 worshippers, most of whom have immigrated to the U.S. West Coast from countries throughout the world, recently made a pilgrimage to Portland, Ore., to participate in a Freedom Mass.

Portland Archbishop John G. Vlazny told the refugees and their descendants that “freedom is a right in this nation,” but reminded them that “freedom comes, first and foremost, as a gift from God.”

A story in the July 11 edition of the Catholic Sentinel, Portland’s archdiocesan newspaper, gives a colorful account of the pageantry of the Mass, which drew members of the Laotian, Hmong, Polish, Croatian, Russian, Korean, Filipino, Hispanic and Eritrean communities.

Getting tickets for an audience with the pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican has just made it a bit easier for folks looking to come to Rome to attend one of the pope’s weekly general audiences or liturgical ceremonies.

Just a few weeks ago, the Prefecture of the Papal Household revamped its Web site giving people the information and the official form they need to request the free tickets. Previously people had to call the prefecture to learn how the procedure worked. Now they can just go to the Web site, download the request form, and send it in by post or fax.

An official at the prefecture told me this morning that ever since they changed the Web site and made more information available online, the number of calls coming in for general information “have dropped” substantially and requests coming in by fax “have gone up a lot.” 

They’ve also added a calendar of the pope’s schedule — when Pope Benedict is or isn’t holding a general audience — so pilgrims don’t request tickets on a day the pope is on vacation or out of town.

The new changes don’t include being able to send requests by e-mail; so far only the U.S. Bishops’ Office for United States Visitors to the Vatican and the American Church of Santa Susanna offer that option.

And don’t forget: the same dress code applies to papal audiences as with the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica — wearing tank tops, spaghetti straps, and short shorts are a no-no.

New Jersey Catholic hospitals to feel sting of Charity Care cuts

Nine Catholic hospitals in New Jersey must learn how to serve the poor with less money, since there has been a major reduction in state funding for Charity Care at these health care facilities.

New Jersey’s governor signed a budget that reduces Charity Care for indigent patients without health insurance by $111 million.

“Health care access for the poor and vulnerable, especially inner-city residents, will be threatened as financially distressed hospitals are further weakened” by the cuts, said Father Joseph Kukura, a Newark, N.J., archdiocesan priest who is president of the Princeton-based Catholic HealthCare Partnership of New Jersey.

More details about this issue are available in the July 16 edition of The Catholic Advocate, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.

Catholic Biblical Federation makes China a priority

Amid continued unsubstantiated rumors about lack of Bibles in China, a commentary by the Asian church news agency UCA News sheds some light on the use of the Bible on the mainland. The commentary by Cecilia Chui, Northeast Asia subregional coordinator for the Catholic Biblical Federation, speaks of how the federation, at its recent meeting in Tanzania, made biblical pastoral ministry in mainland China a priority.

“To continue developing the biblical pastoral ministry in China, we have an idea to form a network to associate mainland Chinese who have undertaken biblical studies abroad,” she says. Read her commentary here.