"Christian Jerusalem: Franciscan Friends" by David Smith in the Jerusalem Post 25.10.2007, a long article on the various pastoral activities of the Franciscans in Jerusalem, included a section on the kehilla and an interview with Father Apolinary Szwed.

Perhaps the smallest Catholic population in Israel is the Hebrew-speaking community. Numbering about 400, they meet in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Beersheba and Haifa, employing a Hebrew liturgy that reflects Christianity's Jewish roots. Hebrew-speaking Catholics have been meeting in Israel since the 1950s, when a group in Jaffa, initiated by a Dominican monk, requested (and received) permission from the Vatican to worship in Hebrew - a noteworthy petition because until the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in the mid-1960s Catholics were required to use the Latin liturgy.

The community's origins were varied. Many were Jews who converted to Catholicism outside Israel, while others were members of mixed-faith families or were simply in Israel for professional reasons. The common language of Hebrew motivated the assembly. Catholics arrived in Israel and were drawn to others who wanted to worship in Hebrew. Even today, when there are a variety of linguistic options, many Catholics want to worship in Hebrew.

About 60 people attend mass on Sunday nights at Jerusalem's Community of St. James. "We're a small congregation, so contact with people is more personal. You get more into the problems of the people and know their needs. The sermons here are very personal," explains Father Apolinary, the parish priest.

Of the Israelis - a majority in the congregation - the Franciscan insists, "These are people that live the reality of Israel. They are Israeli citizens 100%. They serve in the army and fulfill their responsibilities to the country. They endure all the problems and also believe in Yeshua as Messiah."

On a Sunday night in September, congregants followed the Hebrew liturgy, taking time for informal and spontaneous prayer requests. Members prayed for government leaders as well as both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

In the simple sanctuary, devoid of statues and icons, Apolinary exhorted congregants to pray for wisdom. "There are so many things that will distract us; we want to ask wisdom from Him to choose the most important things. Let us open our hearts to request this most important gift."

Apolinary, who does not wear a clerical collar out of sensitivity to the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where the church is located, admitted in an interview: "There are tensions here [between] ultra-Orthodox Jews, secular Israelis, Arabs. You feel the tension. So certainly you need to keep the peace - the internal peace of people. Everything's difficult, but everything is also possible!"

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