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Melkite Greek Catholic Church Information Center

Jesus Christ the TeacherMelkite Greek Catholic Church in Holy Land - Ikrit (Patriarchal See of Jerusalem, Holy Land)

Welcome!    Ahlan wa Sahhlan!

Huri Boulos - international 972-55-517-029
Afeef Toama - international 972-50-416-640
They speak Arabic and Hebrew.
The caretakers don't have email
One of their sons has e-mail and speaks English and will pass information on to them. His email is

No "right of return" for Israeli Arab villagers By Ellis Shuman October 12, 2001

No "right of return" for Israeli Arab villagers
By Ellis Shuman October 12, 2001

"The residents in Ikrit and Biram received an explicit promise that they could return" - Former Justice Minister Yossi Beilin

The security cabinet will inform Israel's High Court of Justice that it opposes a petition that would allow residents of the former villages of Ikrit and Biram to return to their homes. The High Court is due to rule on the case in the coming weeks, and will now consider the government's position opposing the refugees' return due to "security reasons" and because it would "serve as a precedent for other refugees and displaced persons."

The cabinet adopted an ongoing government policy towards the villagers of Ikrit and Biram, who were asked to leave their homes along the Lebanese border shortly after the establishment of the State in 1948. At the time, the army reportedly promised residents that they could return after a few days, when the security situation calmed down. Even so, successive Israeli governments have sought legal and other means to avoid implementing the army's promise.

A special committee established a few weeks ago by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon prepared the groundwork for the cabinet's decision. Government secretary Gideon Sa'ar, foreign policy adviser Danny Ayalon and Ministry of Justice representative Ariela Kelai told Sharon that if the government accepted the residents' request to return to their homes, it would be faced with similar requests from other villagers and would be forced to deal with the sensitive issue of the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees.

The legal case has been pending for years. In 1951 the High Court of Justice ruled that the residents should be allowed to return, but in December of that year the army demolished the buildings of Ikrit and in September 1953 the stone houses of Biram were destroyed. The farmlands of the two villages, some 28,000 dunams in total, were expropriated for the kibbutzim and moshavim along the Lebanese border -- Baram, Sasa, Shumra and Dovev.

Only the churches in the two communities, a Catholic church in Ikrit and a Maronite structure in Biram, were left standing. The descendants of the villagers still conduct all their family gatherings and holidays in the remains of the villages, from baptisms to burying their dead in the village cemeteries, Ha'aretz reports.

In 1972, former Prime Minister Golda Meir's government turned down a request to allow the villagers to return to their homes. In 1977, after Menachem Begin led the Likud Party into power, the government promised to let them return, but this promise was never implemented.

In 1995 a committee led by then Justice Minister David Libai recommended a partial resettlement of the villages. According to the Libai report, the Israel Land Authority was to allocate parcels of lands outside the sites of the original villages for families and their descendants. In return, the villagers were to waive all future demands for retribution.

The former residents of Biram rejected the panel's recommendations as unsatisfactory, but the residents of Ikrit reportedly accepted them. A second committee led by then Justice Ministry director general Haim Klugman improved the conditions for the villagers, but the government failed to implement the proposals.

Representatives of the villagers, who are citizens of the State, petitioned the courts in 1997 to order the government to implement the recommendations of the Libai-Klugman committees. The government repeatedly delayed its response to the petition, asking for additional time to prepare its stand on the subject of the two villages.

In their talks with the government, villagers reportedly raised a compromise proposal based on the recognition of their right to return to the land. Villagers agreed not to return to areas being utilized by Jewish settlements in the area and said that Ikrit and Biram would be rebuilt as rural communities. According to the compromise, the return of the villagers' property would be based on living in mutual respect, cooperation and good neighborliness with the Jewish settlements of the area, Ha'aretz reported.

Residents ask for right to live in villages
"We are very, very frustrated by this decision and the degrading way we have been treated,'' said Tuama Ihsan, the head of a committee of village residents upon hearing Wednesday's cabinet decision.

"Repairing the damage done to us as citizens of the state 53 years ago would not be a security risk," he said. "Past governments have accepted the principle of our return. Until now, we've buried our dead in the villages. It's time we be allowed to live there."

"It's too bad that in this very difficult year, the state of Israel has missed a unique opportunity to bring the Israeli Arab community a bit closer and open a new page," said Minister without Portfolio Saleh Tarif (Labor). "I hope that in the near future the government will change its mind and decide to return the former residents to their homes, which according to all the criteria is the right, just and moral thing to do."

MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash) said that the government's decision was "not only a slap in the face to the people of Ikrit and Biram but to the whole Arab population because it sends the message that Arabs are not equal citizens and that High Court decisions do not apply to them."

Former Justice Minister Yossi Beilin (Labor) said a decision in favor of the residents' right to return to their homes would not have constituted a precedent for Palestinian refugees. "The case of residents in Ikrit and Biram was unusual, because they received an explicit promise that they could return," he said.

The Associated Press reported that Israel Koenig, an official with the Interior Ministry, said no promise of return had ever been given to the families in Ikrit and Biram.


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Martha Liles
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Melkite Greek Catholic Church Information Center is dedicated to my cousins: Bucky (Richard C. Liles) and Shirley (Shirley Jean Liles Buck). Bucky fell asleep in the Lord on Dec. 12, 2000 and Shirley fell asleep in the Lord on Nov. 8, 2001.
O God of all spirits and of all flesh, who have destroyed death, overcome the devil, and given life to the world: grant, O Lord, to the souls of your servants Bucky and Shirley, who has departed from this life, that it may rest in a place of light, in a place of happiness, in a place of peace, where there is no pain, no grief, no sighing. And since You are a gracious God and the Lover of Mankind, forgive him/her every sin he/she has committed by thought, or word, or deed, for there is not a man who lives and does not sin : You alone are without sin, your righteousness is everlasting, and your word is true. You are the Resurrection and the Life, and the repose of your departed servants Bucky and Shirley. O Christ our God, and we send up glory to You, together with your eternal Father and your all-holy, good and life-givng Spirit, now and always and for ages upon ages. Amen.

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