Israel behind ‘Christian exodus’ from Palestine

palestiniansBeit Jala, Palestine – The Israeli occupation of Palestine is the main factor behind the exodus of Palestinian Christians from the region, according to a new study.

The research carried out by the Dar al-Kalima University in the occupied-West Bank town of Beit Jala, concluded that only small percentage of Christians had left Palestine because of concerns over Muslim religious conservatism.

Researchers interviewed more than a thousand people, roughly half of whom were Christian and half Muslim on their outlook on life and if negative, the causes of their pessimism.

“The pressure of Israeli occupation, ongoing constraints, discriminatory policies, arbitrary arrests, confiscation of lands added to the general sense of hopelessness among Palestinian Christians,” the study said.

These conditions have put Palestinian Christians in “a despairing situation where they an no longer perceive a future for their offspring or for themselves,” it added.



Jewish and evangelical Americans are divided over plan to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

nikkiThe United Nations General Assembly isn’t alone in its lack of support for the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

On Thursday, the body overwhelmingly rejected the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The move is a rebuke of the administration’s decision that many have warned could undermine the peace negotiations Trump promised during his presidential campaign.

But some of the most vocal critics are closer to the issue.

Only 16 percent of Jewish Americans support moving the embassy to Jerusalem immediately, according to AJC’s 2017 Survey of American Jewish Opinion. Slightly more than a third — 36 percent — favor moving it “at a later date in conjunction with progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.” But a plurality — 44 percent — disagree with moving the embassy all together.

Nearly 170 Jewish studies scholars from American colleges and universities signed a statement expressing “dismay” at Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:

“Jerusalem is of immense religious and thus emotional significance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. It is the focus of national aspirations for both Israelis and Palestinians. We hope one day to see a world in which all inhabitants of the land enjoy equal access to the city’s cultural and material resources. Today, unfortunately, that is not the case.

A declaration from the United States government that appears to endorse sole Jewish proprietorship over Jerusalem adds insult to ongoing injury and is practically guaranteed to fan the flames of violence. We therefore call on the U.S. government to take immediate steps to de-escalate the tensions resulting from the President’s declaration and to clarify Palestinians’ legitimate stake in the future of Jerusalem.”



Christian and Muslim leaders boycott Mike Pence’s Holy Land visit


US vice-president Mike Pence’s mission to the Holy Land to defend its shrinking Christian communities has been torpedoed by the refusal of Christian and Muslim prelates and Palestinian leaders to meet him.

The boycott was ignited by outrage over US president Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6th. As this day is celebrated by Christians as the name day of St Nicholas, Mr Trump’s choice of date for his announcement was doubly insulting.

Christian and Muslim Arabs regard East Jerusalem as the occupied capital of a future Palestinian state, a position formally adopted by all 57 Muslim states at last Thursday’s summit in Istanbul. The US alone has recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Instead of beginning his tour on Sunday in Jerusalem and Bethlehem as planned, Mr Pence is set to arrive in Cairo next Wednesday for a brief meeting with president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before flying to Jerusalem to meet Israeli president Reuven Rivlin and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and to address Israel’s parliament. An evangelical Christian who urged Mr Trump to make his Jerusalem declaration, Mr Pence will be warmly welcomed by Israelis.

His stay in Cairo was curtailed when he was rebuffed by top Christian and Muslim clerics. Coptic pope Tawadros cancelled an audience with Mr Pence, arguing Mr Trump “did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab people”. The pope heads the region’s largest Christian community, constituting 10 per cent of Egypt’s 93 million people.



Christian man prays with Jerusalem Muslims as religious tensions flare

jerusalemJerusalem (CNN)Nidal Aboud stood out as one among many. As the men around him bowed, he made the sign of the cross. As they chanted their prayers, he read the Bible to himself. And as they said “Allahu Akbar” — God is greatest — he stood silently and respectfully.

He was the only Christian among thousands of Muslims at Friday prayers in the Wadi el-Joz neighbourhood, outside the Old City of Jerusalem.

The photograph, taken by CNN, of this simple interfaith moment has been published in local media and widely shared on social network sites as a touching example of cooperation in a time of conflict.
The prayers took place after Israel restricted access to Al-Aqsa mosque, which sits on the holiest site in the Old City, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
After an attack at the Lion’s Gate entrance to the siteleft two Israeli police officers dead last week, Israeli authorities installed metal detectors and limited entry to men over 50 and women. On Sunday, they installed security cameras, a move that is likely to further inflame tensions.
The security measures are seen by Palestinians and Arab countries as a unilateral attempt by Israel to control the site — considered holy by both the Muslim and Jewish communities — and they have triggered widespread demonstrations and violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
Aboud, a 24-year-old Palestinian who has never before joined the midday Muslim prayers, says he wanted to stand alongside Muslims as they worshiped.
“I had a dream since I was a child. I wanted to spread the world with love. I wanted to be the one who plants love in people’s hearts,” Aboud told CNN.
Holding a Bible with a cross draped around his neck, he said he didn’t feel out of place.
“I asked my Muslim friends for their permission to pray between them. They were asking me to stand beside them,” he said.

Palestinian Christians, Muslims united: Archbishop


thumbs_b_c_95113cc317215e2d3a3bb97b79b03c6dThe image of a Palestinian Christian reading from his bible while the crowd of Muslim worshippers he stood among prostrated themselves on the ground, or Christian clergy joining their Muslim counterparts at the head of processions, have been widely shared during the past week of unrest over one of Jerusalem’s most important holy sites.

During more than a week of tension over new Israeli restrictions on access to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna has been among the most vociferous in his support of unity between Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

“It is our duty as Palestinian Christians and Muslims to remain united against Israel’s greed, which targets all of us,” he told Anadolu Agency as he mingled with the crowds gathered for prayers outside the walls of Islam’s third-holiest mosque.

“As everyone knows the Palestinian people are united against the occupation and racism,” he said.

Palestinian Muslims have refused to enter the mosque because of new metal detectors installed at its entrances following a gun attack that killed two Israeli police officers and three Palestinians.

Israel claimed the measures were a response to the attack but Palestinians see the measures as an attempt to expand Israeli control over the site, which according to historical agreements should remain under Muslim management and reserved for Muslim worship, though non-Muslims can visit. The mosque is also revered by Jews, who call it the Temple Mount.

“The churches of Jerusalem declared their solidarity with Al-Aqsa Mosque and we are here today to affirm our solidarity with our Muslim brothers,” the Archbishop said. 



Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre has an inspiring story of coexistence

church-of-the-holy-sepulchre-700xThe Church of Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Church of Resurrection (كنيسة القيامة) in Arabic, is of the holiest sites revered by Christians the world over.

Located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, it is where followers of the faith believe Jesus Christ was crucified, entombed, and resurrected.

The historical Church has undergone some mass restoration works, and after months of waiting, the holy site was re-opened once again in March 2017. The last time it had had any work done was some 200 years ago.


The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the oldest churches in the Middle East, dating back to 335 A.D.. Scores of pilgrims from all-over the globe visit the revered church annually.


For the past 800 years, two families have been opening and closing the door of the holy site. After Muslim leader Saladin’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1187, a disagreement erupted between the different Christian denominations about who should open and close the gate of the Holy Sepulchre. As a result, a deal with the Christian sects was brokered and two Muslim families were entrusted to be the neutral guardians of the holy site to prevent further dispute.



A Christian Human Rights Monitor Describes the Horrific Realities of Life Under Israeli Occupation


“Don’t they treat us like animals?”

It’s a hot friday morning, in the third week of Ramadan, and we’re at Qalandiya checkpoint, monitoring access for Palestinian women, children, and the elderly (including men over 45) who are traveling to Jerusalem for Friday prayers at al-Aqsa.

It is for one day only, and men under 45 are not allowed through, because the Israeli authorities have identified them a “security risk.”

“We just want to pray,” a Palestinian man exclaims, as he tries to argue with the soldiers.  “How are we a security risk for wanting to pray in al-Aqsa? You can check me! I’m carrying nothing!”

Men under 45 are not allowed through, because the Israeli authorities have identified them a “security risk.”  “We just want to pray,” a Palestinian man exclaims, as he tries to argue with the soldiers.  “How are we a security risk for wanting to pray in al-Aqsa? You can check me! I’m carrying nothing!”

I’m here with a Christian program, monitoring occupation related human rights abuses in the West Bank, and three times a week, we monitor the access—or lack thereof—through Qalandiya checkpoint.

Outside of the men’s entry to the checkpoint, many men under 45 are gathered.  Some try and pass through, even though they know that they will be rejected.

At first I ask the men coming back why they have been rejected, but after a few hours I’ve moved on to asking how many times they’ve tried to pass through.  “Ten times now,” says one man, smiling broadly.  I am encouraged by him; I see it as a peaceful kind of resistance, to attempt to do something which should be your right, despite knowing you won’t be allowed to.

At first I ask the men coming back why they have been rejected, but after a few hours I’ve moved on to asking how many times they’ve tried to pass through.  “Ten times now,” says one man, smiling broadly.  I am encouraged by him; I see it as a peaceful kind of resistance, to attempt to do something which should be your right, despite knowing you won’t be allowed to.

As soon as someone nearby hears that I, despite my Scandinavian features and big blonde hair, speak Arabic, a big group of teenage boys bombard me with questions. Two topics are reoccurring:  Whether or not I am fasting, and if I think what I see happening is right.

Do you fast, they ask me. No, I’m a Christian we fast in or before Easter, I tell them. Is this right what you see here, they ask me. Every time I answer the same way:  No, of course this is not right. How can you put an age limit on the right to pray?

A relationship with God is an undeniable, inalienable human right.  Praying is an undeniable, inalienable human right.

A relationship with God is an undeniable, inalienable human right. Praying is an undeniable, inalienable human right.