Greek Orthodox Priest Falls Victim to Middle East Conflict

Monks worry they may appear as threats to each warring side
A Greek Orthodox priest who was shot dead in a West Bank ambush was laid to rest on June 14 at the remote and ancient desert monastery where he had meditated alone for the past 11 years.

Father Germanos's death has shocked the Holy Land's Greek Orthodox community, troubled by the violent, eight-month conflict here.

Thirty-five-year-old Germanos was shot dead on June 12 as he was driving from Jerusalem to his monastery at Wadi Qelt near the West Bank town of Jericho. His car had Israeli plates, which suggests that his attackers were Palestinian gunmen who had mistaken Germanos for a Jew.

One of the mourners at his funeral, Father Christopher, said he had wept an entire night for his fellow priest and was now scared to travel on West Bank roads. He pointed to his full beard, a distinctive sign not only of Greek Orthodox monks but also of religious Jews and Muslims.

"We monks look like religious Jews to the Arabs and like [members of the militant Islamic group] Hamas to the Jews. It's a big problem," he said.

At the funeral, Christopher was one of a line of black-robed monks and nuns escorting Germanos's body down a winding trail to the monastery. A single church bell tolled in the stark, sun-baked landscape.

Germanos, originally Georgios Tsibouktsakis, came to the Holy Land in 1990 from Thessanloniki, Greece.

Metropolitan Christodolos, in charge of the funeral, said that this was the second time a priest of the Greek Orthodox faith had been murdered here. The first was the superior at the Jacob's Well Monastery in Nablus who was murdered 30 years ago.

But the metropolitan stressed that members of his denomination would not stop their ministry because of the violence, and would continue as the guardians of holy places.

"A monk looks ...

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