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As mayor, he has made it a priority to discourage locals from selling their land to non–Christian settlers. And as a successful businessman, he has also invested considerable sums of his own money in property other local residents cannot afford to keep.

“Through the United Taybeh American Association, we held a successful convention this last summer for over 300 expats on the themes of village solidarity, preserving Taybeh’s Christian identity and the promise of all those who try to sell land only to sell it to someone from Taybeh,” says the mayor.

“We live on hope. Unless we can secure jobs and peace and stability in this country, we cannot convince kids to come home and settle here,” he continues. “If we try to stick together and forgive each other, hopefully we will have a country and we will have peace.”

For her part, Dr. Maria Khoury leads many of the municipality’s charitable activities. A Greek–American, she and her husband recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.

The couple has two sons and a daughter, all of whom are studying in Boston. The Khourys pray their children will return to Palestine once they complete their education.

Dr. Khoury focuses much of her energy on building homes for local needy families. She travels to the United States to speak to Greek Orthodox parishes around the country and raise money for Taybeh’s struggling residents.

Currently, she is fund–raising for the Canaan David Khoury Housing Development, named after her father–in–law. When complete, it will consist of 30 single–family homes. The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem donated the property, and Dr. Khoury has so far raised $145,000 from private donors — enough to finance the construction of the first 16 houses. As part of the project, each of the 16 families has already paid $10,000 in installments, or half of the home’s construction costs.

Children and youth education also figure prominently in Dr. Khoury’s charity portfolio. An author, she has written a number of children’s books on Christians in the Holy Land, including “Christina Goes to the Holy Land.” Through her fund–raising efforts, she has established a $50,000 endowment fund for Taybeh’s Orthodox youth. Recipients receive an annual scholarship of $500 for college–level studies at a local university.

Though born in Greece and brought up in the United States, Dr. Khoury feels a deep spiritual connection to Taybeh and the Holy Land. And as a devout Christian, she believes in peace.

“I think, living here under occupation and having to face the checkpoints, forced closures and the separation barrier, the most important message of the Gospel is: Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who abuse you; turn the other check to those who strike you,” says Dr. Khoury, citing Matthew’s Gospel.

Father Ra’ed is my example. He is doing such wonderful work for Taybeh, and I try to get the Orthodox Church to do at least as much,” says Dr. Khoury.

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Tags: Palestine Christianity Cultural Identity Emigration Melkite Greek Catholic Church