• September 27, 2002
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    Ramallah mayor seeks help in metro Detroit
Ramallah mayor seeks help in metro Detroit The mayor of Ramallah, a major Palestinian city, spoke at a Catholic seminary Thursday, asking metro Detroiters to help the dwindling Palestinian Christian community.

Ayoub Rabah, who once studied at Wayne State University, made his remarks at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit before local parish leaders.

"The whole nation is under curfew," Rabah said. "People can't go to work, they can't go to school. It's been like this for seven to eight months."

In the past week, parts of Ramallah have come under siege by Israeli forces zeroing in on the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Rabah, who lives less than a mile from Arafat's office, said the only way to end the conflict is for Israel to end its occupation.

Metro Detroit has about 33,000 residents from Ramallah, most of them Christian. Today, less than 2 percent of Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are Christian.

When Israel invaded Ramallah this spring, Rabah remembers being holed up in his home, peeking out the curtains to see what was going on. The Israeli government says it was trying to root out terrorists.

"Our homes became jails," he said. "We couldn't leave."

Rabah's visit was sponsored by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, a Maryland-based group with a Detroit chapter that helps support the Christian community in Palestinian territories.