Palestinian Christians

It is almost Easter, and I think about the Crucifixion of Jesus and His Resurrection, and I think about the Christians who live in Palestine today, the Palestinian Christians.

Recently, an Israeli official, Michael Oren, made some claims in the Wall Street Journal, on March 9, about how well Christians are doing in Israel today, that were blatant lies. Here is the Palestinian Christian response to what Michael Oren had to say.

“Your attempt to blame the difficult reality that Palestinian Christians face on Palestinian Muslims is a shameful manipulation of the facts intended to mask the damage that Israel has done to our community.

As has been stated in our Kairos document, we Palestinian Christians declare that “the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God.”

The Israeli occupation is the primary reason why so many members of the oldest Christian communities in the world have left the holy land, Palestine.”…

What Michael Oren had to say about a flourishing Christian community was a distortion of reality, that ignored Israel’s past ethnic cleansing of Christian communities, as well as the present discrimination against all nonJews, Christians included.

But humanity cannot be buried and attacks upon it by Israel, and people of conscience will never stop criticizing the Occupation and its abuses, against Palestinians, Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims.

Here is something I just read about, a different treatment of Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims, back in 1948. Villages in the Galilee were ethnically cleansed, but Christians were separated from Muslims, and Muslims transported to Lebanon and Jordan, and Christians allowed to flee to Nazareth. There, they became what is part of the 20% Arab minority inside Israel’s legitimate intl borders,” ‘non-Jews’ in a Jewish state, they are non-entities—a potential fifth-column, ripe for ‘transfer,’ that most fantastic euphemism for ethnic cleansing.”

And today, graves and churches of Muslims and Christians in Israel are desecrated, here is a description of this carnage.

“We walked through Al Bassa, now an Israeli industrial park. Two churches still stand, as does a mosque and a shrine to St. George where both Christians and Muslims used to pray. We entered one church, where one of our conference speakers had been baptized. He recently had opened the church to baptize his own son there. Someone had meticulously cleaned the pigeon shit, swept the floor, cleaned the altar, and returned some small icons and candles to the front of the church. But there was nothing that could be done about the massive cracks in the ceiling, the walls splattered with feces. There was nothing that could be done about all of that echoing, hollow emptiness, a testament to a people no longer there.

Another church, inhabited by pigeons and lizards, the awful smell of neglect. And, most disturbingly of all, a Christian cemetery, sandwiched between a road and a factory, overgrown with weeds. Most of the graves were smashed open, revealing dried bones, exposed to sunlight and wind and the discarded wine bottles and chip wrappers of late night thrill seekers. I held back vomit. Thigh bones, once buried so carefully, surrounded by mourning and memories, now exposed anonymously to the sun.

Words have always meant so much to me. Words turn back at a sight like this. We found a piece of a headstone, flung face down in the dirt, inscribed with Arabic poetry. I propped it up and poured water on it, rubbed at it with my shirt, with a discarded rag we discovered nearby. Anything. Anything to make the words readable. Anything to bring some miniscule level of dignity—or more accurately, to feel like I was doing something, anything.”




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