“I never left my home”. Roza is 73 and still lives alone in an old house in the Old City of Jerusalem. “For over a hundred years my family has always lived here and these walls for me are everything”. But there were many water infiltrations and often Rosa had to use buckets to collect the humidity that came down from the walls. “It had become unliveable” Rosa says. Therefore she had to ask the Custody of the Holy Land for help. With the project Our house in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, through the support of ATS pro Terra Sancta, the Franciscans help the Catholic families of the Old City of Jerusalem with the restoration and consolidation of old houses.
The costs of the work are often unbearable for families, so the Technical Office of the Custody of the Holy Land provides for the restoration of domestic environments and to create new ones assigning them to needy families. “These houses next to the Holy Places – Fr. Sergey Loktionov (Director of the Technical Office) explains – and the community that lives there, represent the beating heart of the small Christian Catholic community in Jerusalem. Without them the Christian Jerusalem would no longer exist. This is why they must be helped to stay “.
During the works, hidden treasures of a thousand-year history were often found. Under the house of Rosa, for example “there are today abandoned environments, some are even from the crusader age. We are thinking of restoring and exploiting them” as Issa, the site manager, explains. “Once, in one of these environments we even found a crusader tomb!”
Old Jerusalem is in fact a city that has been destroyed and rebuilt many times and for this reason, it is easy to find entire living spaces under the current layer. Since it is no longer possible to build new homes in the Old City, some of these spaces are being used to build new rooms for larger families or to accommodate new families. The Custody rents new homes to families at a very low price and this encourages them to return and stay close to the Holy Places.
This is the case of the Abdnur family. Yussef moved to the Old City from Shu ‘Afat (East Jerusalem, in the New City), where he lived in a small rented house. “The rent was too high and even if I had a good job in a nice hospital, the Hadassah hospital, I was forced to ask my family and friends for help” says the young man. Today the situation of his family has improved: a small basement warehouse has been enlarged and other rooms have been created, including a beautiful kitchen. Yussef is very grateful and thanks Association pro Terra Sancta and the Custody every day.
Even Joana has just returned to live in the Old City, right next to the house where she was born. She is now living with her husband Hassan and her five children, two steps away from the souq, in the middle of the Muslim quarter. She is Catholic, but as the surname Sahagian suggests, her husband is an Armenian Christian. “For many years – says Joana – we lived in a very small house, it was a single room where we lived in seven people!” Now, Joana can live in a new house. “Thanks to you who have helped us so much with the renovations, while the decorations and lights were installed by my husband”. The most beautiful thing for her is to be back next to her mother, who lives there as well, in front of another complex of houses of the Custody, developed around one of the many Hosh (a large courtyard) typical of the ancient cities of the Holy Land.