HAIFA, Israel, JULY 24, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A Carmelite convent in Israel is being inundated with phone calls since the new round of strife begin in the Holy Land.
In this interview sent to ZENIT through the Carmelite order, Sister Maria Giuseppina, prioress of the Carmelite Convent of Haifa, talks about the way the religious are living these times of tension in Israel.

Q: What is the atmosphere in the country, where the population lives with the fear of a new alarm siren or the anxiety of having to run to a shelter before a new bombing raid?

Sister Maria: We have experienced the tension of the situation since July 13, when it was announced that they would begin to bomb Haifa, and the rockets arrive with a certain frequency.

The first fell that same night near the Stella Maris Basilica, on the road that goes down to Haifa. A woman died from a heart attack, and then more people have died because of these attacks.

The whole population is in a state of alarm. Thank God, schools are on vacation, but they have had to close the great University of Haifa, and working mothers have been told: “Stay at home with your children.” Everything works slowly.

Q: How are the religious living these moments?

Sister Maria: We live them in solidarity with the Israeli people, with the Arabs and with the Jews.

We listen to the news and follow instructions. We have been told not to stay in our cells, which look out onto the sea, the direction from which the rockets come. That is why, we have changed our rooms, moving them to the corridors or changing to cells that don’t look out onto the sea, out of prudence.

As for the rest, we continue with the same way of life. When there is an alarm sign, we go to the safest room and listen to the news on the radio. When all is over, life begins again.

We pray much and trust in the Lord, to whom we turn in this situation where we cannot see the end, as the two sides are locked in their positions. That is why we hope there will be interventions from on high, not only of the Lord but also of the powerful ones of the earth, to convince them to put down their weapons.

Q: Had you seen signs of what might happen before the conflict broke out?

Sister Maria: On Thursday afternoon, July 13, the sister who went to the market returned saying that she had heard that that night the bombing of Haifa would begin.

When the first rockets were fired we were in recreation. Before that moment, we didn’t think this could happen, as it had never happened in Haifa.

Q: Do people ask you for help?

Sister Maria: Yes! For example, a girl we knew came to ask us to let her die in the convent, as a rocket had fallen near her home and she was very scared.

Our telephone rings from morning till night: Many people from abroad and from the country call us to ask what is going on and how we are.

Sunday, July 16, was the feast of the Virgin of Carmel, but few people came to Mass, as a bomb exploded causing nine deaths. Everyone was frightened and stayed at home. There is much fear, but at the same time life goes on …

Q: If you wished to make and appeal or a request, what would you say?

Sister Maria: As Carmelites, we are in prayer and we pray, but we ask all Christians worldwide to pray, as the Holy Land is loved by all and our communities are here at the service of all.

Pray that the situation will change and that the desired peace will finally come. “It is an appeal we make with all our heart!