Introducing the 700-year-old Christians of the Holy Land - The Echo News
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Introducing the 700-year-old Christians of the Holy Land

The personal account of a Palestinian Christian

Israel and Palestine are a cultural hub for many religions. (Photograph provided by Abigail Roberts)

Israel and Palestine are a cultural hub for many religions. (Photograph provided by Abigail Roberts)

By Abigail Roberts | Contributor

Palestinian Arab Christians trace their history back to the day of Pentecost. It may seem odd to see the words Arab and Christian side by side. Yet, today, over 160,000 Christians remain in Palestine/Israel, many of whom live in the occupied West Bank, a contested landlocked territory between the Jordan River and the state of Israel divided from Israel by a separation wall and fence.

A wide mix of Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals, the bells of Palestinian churches mix with the Muslim call to prayer along the historic streets of Palestine. However, the existence of Palestinian Christians is under threat. Today, there remains only a fraction of Palestine’s pre-1948 Christian population.

Daud (not real name for safety purposes) is a Palestinian Christian raised in Bethlehem. In 1948, Daud’s grandfather was killed as a Palestinian civilian in the Israeli takeover. With seven young children, Daud’s grandmother was forced from her village home. Their family roots in the land date back to before the time of Christ. She sought refuge in Bethlehem with a cousin. Thankfully, there was room in the inn, and Daud’s family has lived in Bethlehem ever since.

In opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank, as marked by the 1967 peace agreement borders, Daud’s uncle began nonviolent peace movements. As a young boy, Daud quickly joined him.

“When I was 12 years old, my uncle organized a group of internationals, Israelis and Palestinians to plant olive trees on a Palestinian farmer’s land,” Daud said.

To provide background: Israelis use a process of land confiscation in which they apply a 19th century Ottoman land law. Israeli forces set up fences blocking Palestinian farmers’ land, wait the appropriate number of years and claim the land for the state.

In opposition, Daud’s uncle assisted Palestinian farmers by crossing the fences and farming their land.

“I had just begun to plant my olive tree when I heard the sound of Israeli jeeps pulling up,” Daud said. “I kept planting my tree, but my hands were shaking. Suddenly the shadow of a soldier fell from behind me, he reached over me and pulled out my newly planted olive tree. That was, for me, the decisive moment of my life.”

Daud has been working toward peace ever since. The peace efforts of those like Daud stand as a sign of hope in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, yet they cannot stand alone.

“The future of Middle East Christians stands on how the church reacts,” said the founder of an organization in Palestine which promotes reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Current Evangelical pro-Zionist movements are directly supporting the occupation force which daily effects Palestinian Christians. How often has the church in the West given notice to its brothers and sisters in the often sieged or curfewed city of Bethlehem?

The conflict in Palestine/Israel is often painted as Jews fighting against extremist Muslims. Who is forgotten within this narrative? The Palestinian Christians of the land.

Daud encourages fellow Christians to keep in mind their daily reality.

When you pray for the peace of Jerusalem, do not forget the historic Christians who also call Palestine/Israel home.

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