With Christmas approaching, the well wishes of the Israeli civil authorities came right on time. As per tradition, on December 12, Yoav Mordechai, Major General of the COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) was the first to meet with the Custos of the Holy Land. In a meeting room of the Custody, the two cordially spoke in the presence of the junta delegation with Mordechai, of the Custodial Vicar, Fr. Dobromir Jasztal, of the the Secretary of the Custody David Grenier and of Br. Ibrahim Faltas, who is in charge of relations with the Israeli authorities. The General asked the Custos how the first months of his tenure were going, and he then he then explained to them how they operate in daily life. “After two years, I can inform you that in January we will begin to work with Halo Trust, and to work even more to add more water to the river,” said Mordechai. He was referring to the situation of the Jordan River, which is located in a territory that belongs to the Custody and other churches, and which requires cleaning and removal operations of unexploded mines; the Halo Trust association has offered to help with the initiative. “I want to express my appreciation and gratitude because Fr. Ibrahim explained to me how hard you are working to help solve our problems,” said Fr. Francesco Patton.
On December 20, it was the turn of Jerusalem's Mayor Nir Barkhat. With a large delegation, he visited the headquarters of the Custody at Saint Savior's in order to send their well wishes. “It is important to us for Christians to feel welcome here in Jerusalem and in Israel,” said the mayor. He then explained one of the objectives of the city for the next year: “My dream would be to have ten million tourists here in Jerusalem. Rome has forty [million], and New York has fifty [million]; Jerusalem can have ten [million].”
“Thank you for your cooperation; there is a good relationship between the city and the Custody of the Holy Land,” replied the Custos. We are trying to invite many pilgrims to come here and to visit Jerusalem and all of the holy places.” Some grievances to be submitted to the administration were then brought up, and at the end of the meeting, the mayor of Jerusalem gave the Custos a gift basket so as to wish him “a sweet Christmas.” Fr. Francesco Patton wished Nir Barkhat a happy Hanukkah, since this year both holidays are celebrated on the same days.
Even Jerusalem's Chief of Police, Yoram Halevy, wished to meet the Custos of the Holy Land as per the annual tradition. “This meeting is part of the respect and the relationship between us and the community,” began the chief of police. Fr. Francesco Patton replied, returning his appreciation: “We are very aware of the importance of service provided by the police, who serve the city and its citizens. And we thank you for that.” After the usual photos and the handing out of gift baskets, the meeting ended with Christmas greetings to the Custos and with Hannukah wishes for the chief of police.