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Israel's not-so-stellar record on treatment of Christians

Much has been made of the inept appearance of Michael Oren – American Jew turned Israeli ambassador to the United States  - on 60 Minutes, in which he admitted that from time to time he calls up senior TV brass to make certain they censor the work of their writers and editors. This morning, Haaretz reported (Hebrew) that the Prime Minister’s Office was intimately in the loop. Why? Because Oren claimed the show was a “potential strategic terrorist attack” against Israel’s image in the US.

Lo and behold: at the same time Oren was biting his nails, an American Hasbara organization, The Jewish Federations of North America, sent an APB to its activists, calling upon them to prepare for a blitz against CBS. It sent that message before the show was aired. May we now openly voice the suspicion that the Israeli embassy is activating Jewish organizations in the United States in order to manipulate the press there? That would be perfectly legitimate, as far as the embassy is concerned – that’s what it’s there for. But it’s much more problematic, when it comes to organizations composed of American citizens.

The Federations were trying to argue that Christians abandoning the West Bank due to the Israeli occupation do not do so because of their being Christians, but because of the occupation (which they refer to under the euphemism of “Israeli security policy”). They are correct. If someone wants to see truly anti-Christian Israeli policy, he’d better look at Israel proper.

The 2010 State Department report on religious freedom in Israel and the occupied territories found that the Israeli Ministry of the Interior (MOI) is harassing Christian priests by demanding they renew their visas time and time again. It limits the number of visas Christian religious workers receive, and makes onerous demands on them. The visa application process, when successful, takes months. During 2010, the MOI refused to renew the Jerusalem Anglican bishop’s residency permit, claiming that he was involved in forgery. The bishop denies the claim, and it is noteworthy that he was not indicted.

The MOI further refuses to grant recognized legal status to several old churches in Israel, all of them Protestant. Four Christian churches are waiting years for recognition of their legal status: the Ethiopian-Orthodox Church, the Coptic-Orthodox Church, the Evangelic Lutheran Church, and the United Christian Council.

The MOI, left for many years to the Orthodox parties, is collaborating with a hate organization, “Yad Le’Achim,” which has a clear anti-Christian agenda (Hebrew). The MOI sends “queries” about Israeli citizens and tourists to Yad Le’Achim, for it to decide whether they are suspected of “missionary activity.” Now, Israeli law does not forbid religious preaching: it merely prohibits a conversion made in exchange for goods, and the conversion of minors without the permission of their parents. Yet, when your country is officially termed Jewish and your Minister of the Interior is an Orthodox Jew, the law matters little. In 2009, according to the State Department report cited above, 30 percent of the tourists who were stopped for questioning in Ben Gurion Airport were questioned about their religious beliefs, at the instructions of the MOI. This was probably an attempt to intimidate them from proselytizing.

Possibly the most fantastic event in the relations of the Jewish state with a Christian church is the controversy surrounding the appointment of the Greek Orthodox patriarch. During the Sharon and Olmert governments, in a scene seemingly taken from a medieval chronicle, the government delayed its recognition (Hebrew) of Theophilius as Patriarch until the latter would give his consent to some shady land deals of the radical ultra-Orthodox Jewish right. Minister Tzachi Hanegbi admitted he demanded Theophilius refrain from torpedoing a deal with the extremist yeshiva Ateret Cohanim as a condition to his appointment. Hanegbi’s successor in dealing with the church, minister Raffi Eitan, was suspected of coercing the patriarch into agreeing the church would suspend a lawsuit against Himnuta, the JNF’s dirty-tricks department, which buys lands for settlements. Himnuta would later demand Theophilius fulfill his part of the deal – which he quickly denied making. Bear that in mind the next time they tell you Israelis enjoy freedom of religion.

The situation of the Messianic Jews, a sect of Jews who accept a version of Christianity – ironically, re-creating the most ancient Christian community – is even worse. They suffer from endless molestations, both by the MOI (aided, again, by Yad Le’Achim) and by the general Jewish Orthodox population. In 2008, one such family suffered a terrorist attack  – a real one, Ambassador Oren, bomb and all (Hebrew) – and Jewish terrorist suspect Jack Teitel is suspected of carrying it out. Unlike other Jewish families which fall victim to terrorist attacks, this family did not become the focus of media or official attention.

During the same year, Yad Le’Achim managed to prevent a Messianic Jewish girl, Bat El Levi, 17, from participating in the International Bible Quiz, even though she won her way fair and square through the quizzes in the secular school system (Hebrew). The words of Martin Luther King – ” when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people”  – come to mind. Reportedly, the Minister of Education – Labor’s Yuli Tamir – publicly boasted that all of the participants in the quiz were checked and found to be Jews.

The spitting by yeshiva boys on priests has become a Jerusalem phenomenon, recognized by the courts (Hebrew), who deplored the police’s inaction. The police hotly denied this claim: it proudly replied it deported from Israel priests who refused to turn the other cheek and slapped those who spat at them. Should you happen to speak with priests in Jerusalem, you’re likely to hear of another lovely habit of our ultra-Orthodox brethren: urinating and defecating on churches. From time to time, a church is set on fire: the last noted case was some 18 months ago (and cited in the State Department report above). The police reacts to this with even more than usual indolence.

Christian clergy in Jerusalem are often spat at by yeshiva boys (Photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

Christian clergy in Jerusalem are often spat at by yeshiva boys (Photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

Usually, when Jewish violence  and discrimination against non-Jews is reported, the defenders of Israel often argue this is the result of the conflict. But Israel is not in conflict with the Christian world: it couldn’t survive without it. This hatred, this violence, is the result of thousands of years of anti-Christian hatred by a radical stream within Orthodox Judaism that wishes to create a theocratic state based on Jewish law (which crept into its daily liturgy – the infamous “informers’ blessing”).  It blows up not because of some cause, but because it can, and the weak response of the authorities is the result of their understanding that a large segment of the population supports such acts. The evangelists who signed a devil’s pact with radical ultra-Orthodox Jews fail to understand that those extremists are their preferred target; that they don’t hate the Palestinians merely because the latter happen to live here, but their hatred of Christianity is the real thing, which sometimes bursts to surface.

And then everyone pretends it never happened.

Read also:
CBS Report on Christians and Israel propels Ambassador Oren into damage control mode

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  • COMMENTS

    1. XYZ

      Gurvitz-
      I would like to know what the point of your comment that Oren is an “American Jew turned Israeli Ambassador” is. I am an American Jew who make aliyah. Does that make me less of an Israeli than you are? Would you classify Shimon Peres as a “Polish Jew turned Israeli President”?
      As someone who claims to have studied in Yeshiva High School and Jewish history, is it any surprise to you that many Jews are sensitive to missionary activity, after all the losses we have suffered at the hands of the Christian, both physical and spiritual?
      Or is it your dream that we are all going to assimilate and end the “Jewish problem” that way? Well, dream on.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tess

        Being a jew means you practice the jewish religion. If you don’t you are not a jew. Stop confusing religion with nationality.

        Reply to Comment
    2. the other joe

      Ah well I don’t know, none of this sounds particularly bad. In a lot of respects, I’m surprised any churches are allowed inside Israel. There is a lot more harassment of certain Christian sects inside other supposedly Christian countries (Russia springs to mind) than in Israel.

      Of all the effects of the occupation, focussing on the (largely minor) inconvenience of Christian religious to do their stuff seems to be irrelevant. And not really on the same page as the effect on ordinary Palestinians of all religions in the occupied Territories.

      Reply to Comment
    3. max

      I like the “But it’s much more problematic, when it comes to organizations composed of American citizens”. Applying it in Israel would kill most of the Left and much of the Right :)
      It’s probably a great idea!

      Reply to Comment
    4. Thanks to Yossi for a very helpful overview. At the risk of pedantry, I would note that neither the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church nor the Coptic Orthodox Church are Protestant, both predating Protestantism by about a millennium and a half.

      Reply to Comment
    5. aristeides

      Other Joe – doesn’t it occur to you that these Christian churches have been there a long, long time before the state of Israel? Would you have them torn down? Or just boarded up – as Israel has indeed done with churches in ethnically-cleansed Christian villages.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Rodrigo

      It is pretty amazing how much this supposedly ‘Israeli’ web site celebrates a clearly biased anti-Israeli hit piece.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Good for you, Yossi. I have done a lot of writing about the bombing of Ami Ortiz, and I know you are not doing a “hit piece” as another commentor suggested. It *is* ironic that Israel must defend itself against false accusations, while it surely has not upheld the civil and religious rights of its Messianic Jewish population. Jack Teitel is supposed to be back in court this month ready to plead guilty to murdering two Arabs, but the charges against him for terror bombing a 15-year old Messianic Jewish boy are going to be dropped. This is not justice, seeing how Teitel confessed to working with Yad L’Achim and surveillance footage clearly shows that Teitel did not act alone when he planted the Purim package bomb at the family’s gated entrance. Many of us suspect that once the case that demonstrates conspirators acting with Teitel are dropped, that his lawyers will make another run at getting Teitel declared mentally imbalanced in two separate murders of Palestinians. The hypocrisy with the lives and rights of Messianic Jewish citizens is surely not what I want to be talking about right now when Israel is fighting a propaganda war with 60 Minutes, but these are my friends we are talking about. Their lives count too.

      Reply to Comment
    8. aristeides

      The truth is not a bias, Rodrigo. It’s straight.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Piotr Berman

      Rodrigo: so what was biased?

      Yossi: it seems that you were a bit sloppy:

      From Messianic Center website:

      The rabbis declared, “It is unacceptable that a member of a cult that had removed itself from the Jewish faith will take part.”

      Despite their demands, the quiz event went on as planned, with Bat-El Levi participating. The quiz attorneys determined that Levi’s mother was Jewish and her identity papers made it clear that she, too, met the strict definitions of being identified as Jewish.

      ——

      Interestingly enough, the quiz, organized by Ministry of Education, is closed to non-Jewish pupils. Clearly, integration of various religious communities is not on the official agenda. Municipal officials can go further. In the same May of 2008

      “… in Or Yehuda [...] the acting Deputy Mayor, Uzi Aharon (Shas), piled copies of the New Testament onto a bonfire.” These copies were distributed by missionaries but collected by high school students from the recipients.

      A more fresh incident concerns Armenian quarter in Old Jerusalem. Like Greek Orthodox, Armenian Patriarchate lost control on a large proportion of its land. A parcel in Old Jerusalem belongs in part to the Patriarchate and it is a parking lot. This year the status of the lot was changed in such a way as to prevent Armenians from getting a parking sticker. Not exactly throwing Christians to the lions, but a lovely sentiment expressed on the municipal level in not-so-obscure municipality.

      Reply to Comment
    10. the other joe

      @Aristeides – no matter what many indicate, Christianity has no theology of the land, hence it would make no difference if there were no Christians left in the ‘Holy’ land.
      .
      And anyway, I’m not saying I’d want the churches to be closed (though it would be a blessed relief if some were closed such as the damned Holy Sepulchre), just that I’m surprised the Israeli state has allowed so many churches to continue for so long.

      Reply to Comment
    11. RichardL

      The Other Joe: OK clarify it then: what ARE you saying? The impression I get is that you think it doesn’t matter that Christians in Israel are harassed (with the connivance of the state remember) because there is worse persecution elsewhere. The old familiar Zionist excuse no less: why are you complaining about our abuses of human rights when people are dying in the DRC/Syria/Burma or wherever we can use for justification (and about which we neither care nor do anything)? Is it laudable that the Israeli state hasn’t closed all the churches? (Should I add ‘yet’?) It has not closed all the mosques in Palestine either but it does not do a lot about settler vandalism of hallowed sites there. It did however assure the international community that freedom of worship would be respected for all religions in Jerusalem. So that’s another broken promise. Do you disapprove of that or not?

      Reply to Comment
    12. aristeides

      No “theology of the land?” What does that mean?

      .
      Christianity certainly does have a long history in Palestine, where it was born, and it would certainly make a profound difference if its sites and its adherents were expunged. Maybe you would approve of this difference, but it would still be a difference and, to most people, even non-Christians, a loss.

      .
      One of the many pernicious consequences of Israel’s self-described existence as a “Jewish state” is this growing intolerance.

      Reply to Comment
    13. the other joe

      @RichardL – yes you are right, it feels odd to be using an argument which sounds like a Zionist. I just don’t believe that Christian persecution is much of a reality inside Israel. Mild harassment, possibly. I don’t approve or disapprove of this, I just see it as the sighs of sad old monks as they watch the vestiges of their power disappear. It is hard to feel much sympathy for old men who fight like children over access to the Sepulchre. Mostly they just need to get over themselves.

      Reply to Comment
    14. the other joe

      @Aristeides – Christianity is a religion of the heart. Most Christians have no attachment whatsoever to the ‘holy’ land, nor any reason to. It is not an inherited belief, it is not really even something which can be a national belief. There are no holy spaces, there is no holy land. These are just artificial human constructions.

      Reply to Comment
    15. aristeides

      No holy spaces? And what do you think the crusades were about, then? Christendom went to war for centuries to regain and retain its access to the holy spaces in the holy land.

      .
      You want they should do it again?

      Reply to Comment
    16. The Other Joe, one of the Church Fathers described the Holy Land as ‘the fifth gospel’, and this is a description often used by Palestinian Christians today. Pilgrimage to various holy sites and shrines has been a part of the Christian heritage since the religion began. Some Protestants don’t share this concept of sacred space, but Catholics, Orthodox (the bulk of Palestine’s Christians), and various other Protestant churches retain it as central. I disagree with Aristeides that the Crusades were about access to these sacred sites – they were about power, control, trading routes, and wealth as much as anything else – but place retains its significance.
      .
      As for it making no difference if there were no Christians left in the Land, the Christians who live in it would disagree with that. This is their home and their heritage. After participating in Arabic-language liturgies that date back over fifteen hundred years, I also struggle to imagine the country with no indigenous Christian population.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Piotr Berman

      Aresteides: yes, this is how mainstream Israeli think (as opposed to the people who run +972 Magazine): property rights are not related to documents like property titles or historical descriptions of tribal holdings (in the case of nomads) but on prophesy. Jews have a divine right to conquer Cana’an, and they can conquer a little piece every day.

      Reply to Comment
    18. the other joe

      @Vicky I don’t recognise the authority of Church fathers, couldn’t give a monkeys what they said and thought.
      .
      It is certainly true that there was a period in which much of Christianity was gripped by a theology of place and pilgrimage, but this very largely passed centuries ago. Very few Christian thinkers have ever asserted that the shrines in Jerusalem were the holiest in Christendom since at least the crusades hundreds of years ago.
      .
      Palestinian Christians certainly value their heritage, but this is little different to other Christians valuing the land in which they have lived for generations. Clearly, the loss of Christians is to some extent a local, personal and family tragedy in various parts of the world, including in Jerusalem. But it is certainly not the most tragic example in the Middle East of persecution.
      .
      Indeed, if you anyone is actually concerned about the Christian minority in the Middle East, very little of your time would be spent on worrying about the Christian community in Israel. Christian Palestinians in the occupied Territories are no better off than their Muslim compatriots. Arab Christians in Israel are no worse of than other Arab minorities. Non-arab Christians experience very little impact on their lives from living in Israel, certainly much less even than some Muslim communities experience in some countries in Europe. In fact, I’d say the Muslim communities in Jerusalem are generally worse off than the Christian minority – if we really want to compare religious groups.

      Reply to Comment
    19. aristeides

      In other words, Other, you just don’t give a damn about people of other religions, only Jews matter. Fine, just don’t say that other religions don’t matter to THEM.

      .
      There are millions of demented Christians in the US, rabid to see all the world’s Jews ingathered to Jerusalem like fissionable material reaching critical mass to end the world – and of course the Jews with it. This is why they support Zionism. And Jerusalem is the key. Go tell them Jerusalem doesn’t matter to Christians.

      Reply to Comment
    20. The Other Joe, whether or not you personally accept the significance of the Church and Desert Fathers is irrelevant to the discussion – Orthodox and Catholic Christians certainly do, and they account for over a billion people. That’s a large portion of the world’s Christians. There are Christian shrines dotting the world, not just Palestine: Lourdes, Fatima, Banneaux, Knock, Walsingham, the Camino, the list goes on. The idea of pilgrimage is still flourishing, and the concept of sacred space extends beyond pilgrimage: enter Orthodox and Catholic churches and there is the sanctuary at the front, demarcated from the rest of the space by railings, iconostasis, and a perpetually burning lamp. This exists in certain Protestant churches too.
      .
      The relationship that Palestinian Christians (in the OPT and within the Green Line) is affected by their faith. They have their own shrines, often unknown to tourists from abroad, and their own pilgrimages. Before the movement restrictions were really tightened, all the Christians in Bethlehem area would be up before dawn on the Feast of the Assumption and would walk to a Marian shrine in Jerusalem in a candelit procession, followed by a morning picnic near Ein Karem. It is a source of great sadness to people in the neighbourhood that they can no longer do this. I didn’t claim that they are worse off than everybody else simply for being Christian; I pointed out that the land where Jesus lived does have special meaning for them, and being unable to live that out does cause them some pain. Don’t write off their understanding of their religion just because it is not your own.

      Reply to Comment
    21. the other joe

      @Aristeides – I am a Christian, these are my brethren. Kindly stop making assumptions about me.
      .
      The Christian Zionists are not on my team and represent a minority sect of opinion within Christianity. Stop trying to merge me in with those I clearly disagree with.

      Reply to Comment
    22. the other joe

      Also I can’t see how anything I’ve written on +972 ever could be construed as suggesting that “don’t give a damn about people of other religions, only Jews matter.”
      .
      Yeah, that’s right. I only care about the Jews.
      .
      Do you actually read what I write or are you only interested in reading every 7th word?

      Reply to Comment
    23. aristeides

      Other – when you say, “I don’t recognise the authority of Church fathers, couldn’t give a monkeys what they said and thought”, it definitely gives the impression that you don’t give a damn about Christians and what they believe.

      .
      And if you are a Christian, you sure don’t seem to be aware of the major streams of Christian thought.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Mary Saunders

      Increasing numbers of Christians and Jews in the U.S. are coming to understand the depth of inequality in Israel. Israelis inside Israel protested earlier this year that they perceive hardship from privileges accorded to settlers inside the occupied territories. Jewish Voice for Peace emphasizes that mitzvahs are not just for chosen specially privileged people, but that kindness toward others is encouraged in Jewish tradition. Proclaiming how much one does not care about others does not seem consistent with the best tenets of any religion I know of. Aggressive people frequently get away with takings by force simply because they are aggressive and become used to using intimidation to get what they want. Eventually the dire consequences of this become too great. Harry Truman remarked that keeping people in a ditch requires the enforcer to be in the ditch as well (my paraphrase). I am a Christian living in the U.S., and I do not understand the source of The Other Joe’s hostility and apparent approval of unequal application of law and force. Occupying forces have a duty of care toward persons whose land they are using. Less than this standard of care is not acceptable and will harm Israel as world conditions change.

      Reply to Comment
    25. max

      @Mary, I don’t see where TOJ approved of “unequal application of law and force” – where did you see it?
      His point – at last the way I understand it and agree with, and besides his religious view that seems strongly anti-idolatry – is that the little that can be attributed to anti-Christian sentiments (in contrast to those attributed to the general Israeli-Palestinian conflict) doesn’t deserve such a debate or pointed criticism. The general attitude in Israel towards Christian isn’t bad, even when compared to some Christian countries, let alone many in the neighborhood (last point is mine, not his).
      .
      You write “Israelis inside Israel protested earlier this year that they perceive hardship from privileges accorded to settlers inside the occupied territories” – I don’t think that’s true; in fact, I was surprised how little this came up during the protests.
      .
      Finally, I’m a bit surprised by he tone of your comment, as Israel – with a high inequality rank – still lags the US… so why would Christians and Jews in the U.S. judge Israel in this regard?

      Reply to Comment
    26. the other joe

      @Vicky – You are right to say that Palestinian Christians have a great affinity to certain sites, but I do not consider this to be any difference to Spanish Christians valuing their Cathedrals and Irish their cave grottos. There is no general assumption within Christianity that sites in Jerusalem are a) the most holy or b) that one has a religious obligation to visit them. Again, these are concepts I reject, but even sects that do value these things do not imply that Jerusalem is most important.
      .
      Furthermore, there is no reason to suggest that the Christian community in Israel and Palestine is any more important than the ones elsewhere. Are there Christian communities to be concerned about in the ME? Yes. But very largely not in Israel. That could change, but there is no significant risk at the moment.
      .
      There is no case to answer.

      Reply to Comment
    27. the other joe

      And as I said on the other thread, in places where Christians are leaving from parts of the West Bank, they report that this is very largely because of the effects of the Occupation rather than because of persecution because they are Christians.

      Reply to Comment
    28. aristeides

      Other – there was no case being made before you stepped in to make fugheaded comments about Christianity.

      Reply to Comment
    29. delia ruhe

      Thank you, Yossi, that is very informative — a keeper. Except for the spitting, I didn’t know much about Christians in Israel, although I did know that the Christian population was in steep decline.

      I’ll bet that American Evangelicals who whine about the persecution of Christians will remain silent on these particular persecuted Christians.

      Thanks again.

      Reply to Comment
    30. zayzafuna

      The situation will improve only after Palestine is finally liberated

      Reply to Comment
    31. XYZ

      Mary Saunders-
      We have been hearing what you are saying, i.e. “people are finally realizing how rotten Israel really is” for about the last 60 years. Support for Israel is as high as ever in the US. Two points to keep in mind
      (1) How many people watch “60 Minutes” these days? I am sure it is only a fraction of what it was 30 years ago.
      (2) People are not as stupid as you seem to think they are. People are well aware of how the Muslims treat Christians in the Middle East and about the problemat relations between them in the West Bank, and that Israel is NOT the cause of the Christian’s problems. Just look at what is going on in Egypt and Pakistan and Nigeria regarding Muslim relations with a Christian minority. Most people in the West don’t go around obsessing about Israel and the Palestinians, contrary to what the 972 commentators think.
      (3) Jewish Voice of Peace is a radical anti-Zionist, anti-Israel organization. It is nothing more than a non-Orthodox version of Neteurei Karta which is viewed as a fringe group of eccentrics even by the non-Zionist Haredim. They have an article on their web site saying that Tel Aviv is more or less an illegal settlement. They have so little support in the Jewish community that they now spend their time running to Christian groups trying to get them to boycott Israel.
      Here is their link to the article claiming that Tel Aviv is an “illegall settlement”:

      http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/content/setting-record-straight-response-historical-distortions-tiff

      Reply to Comment
    32. RichardL

      XYZ-
      Support for Israel might be at record highs amongst US politicians but I suggest there are troubling trends for Israel amongst the electorate.
       
      The second of your THREE points is merely a rework of that old Zionist whine why pick on us, there are other human rights abuses taking place elsewhere? The article describes actual repression and harassment under the Israeli occupation and your response is “Just look at what is going on in Egypt and Pakistan and Nigeria…” That’s not a valid justification, but more an admission of Israeli guilt.
       
      But that’s an interesting piece by JVP on Tel Aviv. Thanks for the link, I now suggest you read it yourself. After giving a number of details of the Nakba in the in the area into which Tel Aviv expanded it comments
      “None of this history “delegitimizes” the city of Tel Aviv, but it does put its history and present reality – including continued rampant discrimination against the city’s Palestinian residents – in proper perspective, which the Jewish leaders criticizing our efforts refuse to do.”
      AND
      “Many major cities are built through conquest or built by slave labor (important parts of Washington DC, including the White House) or processes of dispossession that are regarded as morally unacceptable in the 21st century. Tel Aviv is no different. Part of becoming “legitimate” entails acknowledging this past and making amends for it.”
       
      I didn’t see anything about the city being an “illegal settlement”, but then why let the facts get in the way of an opportunity to attack a Jewish organization working for justice for Palestinians?

      Reply to Comment
    33. XYZ

      RichardL-
      You apparently didn’t understand my point no. 2
      The reason Christians are leaving the West Bank is because of theanti-Christian Muslim pressure which is the same as what is happening throught the Arab Middle East. Israel does NOT “persecute” Christians, although Christians on the West Bank do have to endure the checkpoints and other security measures which were set up due to their fellow Muslim Palestinian’s terror war against Israel.
      Seth Freedman is a far-Left Israeli who has written a blog on the anti-Israeli “Guardian-Comment is Free blog” . A couple of years ago he visited Nazareth, a mixes Muslim-Christian town in northern Israel. When Barak was Prime MInister, he gave permission for the Muslims to build a mosque right across the street from the Church of the Annunciation which was supposed to tower over it, in order to show who is boss. The Vatican protested and Barak backed down. When Freedman visited there, he saw a giant green banner opposite the church saying something to the effect that anyone who doesn’t believe in Islam is a loser and will rot in hell. TO be frank, that does not sound lie the “tremendous respect Islam has for Christians and Jews” we keep hearing about.
      So the reason Christians are leaving the West Bank is due to Muslim intolerance, not anything Israel is doing, because the Christian population of Arab Middle East has been in decline for decades as the Muslim population flex their muscles. That is the real story.

      Reply to Comment
    34. XYZ

      I repeat, JVP is a radical anti-Israel organization, similar to Netueri Karta which holds the state of Israel is illegal and illegitimate. JVP wrote the piece about Tel Aviv supporting the boycott of the Toronto film festival. This means they view Tel Aviv as ILLEGITIMATE because the boycotters of the film festival were NOT calling for a boycott of Washington DC or other cities built by “dispossesion and exploitation”. They only want to boycott Tel Aviv. They view it as illegitimate as they view Israel as being illegitimate.

      Reply to Comment
    35. RichardL

      XYZ-
      ” Israel does NOT “persecute” Christians”
       
      Which article did you read? Did you skip this bit: “Messianic Jews [...]suffer from endless molestations, both by the MOI (aided, again, by Yad Le’Achim) and by the general Jewish Orthodox population. In 2008, one such family suffered a terrorist attack – [...] bomb and all [...] – and Jewish terrorist suspect Jack Teitel is suspected of carrying it out.”?
       
      Are you sure this has absolutely nothing to do with Christians leaving the West Bank? Well yes, I expect you are. But facts and rational deduction are never the strong points of your posts.

      Reply to Comment
    36. aristeides

      I see that X is now reduced to namecalling, and repeating the exact lies that the article refutes.

      Reply to Comment
    37. “The reason Christians are leaving the West Bank is because of theanti-Christian Muslim pressure which is the same as what is happening throught the Arab Middle East.”
      .
      The Christians of the West Bank are losing their livelihood because of occupation. Every Friday there is a Christian prayer service in Cremisan because the community there is threatened by the ongoing construction of the wall. Talk with these people, and you will find them panicking about how to make ends meet financially. Many (including the family I live with) have been reduced to poverty and are barely scraping by. Others have even lost the roof over their heads through home demolitions. The Holy Land Trust (a Palestinian Christian organisation based in Bethlehem) was rebuilding demolished homes in the Walajeh and Beit Jala area last summer. They have endured worse in the past. Of my landlady’s four children, all have psychological problems (the eldest in particular is severely traumatised). It wasn’t the local Muslims who were requisitioning the house, pulling them out of their beds at midnight, and pressing gun barrels to their heads. The suggestion that their suffering can be ascribed to Muslim persecution is another thing that never fails to make people in the neighbourhood very angry, because they know that the people who say this don’t care about helping them – they just care about justifying their political views.
      .
      The Kairos Palestine document, drawn up by the Palestinian Christian leadership with grassroots support from the churches, makes the situation absolutely clear. The fantasy that these people are only leaving because of Muslims is only tenable if you don’t actually listen to a word Palestinian Christians say, which is easy enough – you’re unlikely ever to meet one.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Leen

      Even from a ‘there is no attachment to the land’ perspective, we all know that is clearly and utterly wrong. Many Christians believe that Armageddon would occur in the Holy Land, and many in fact do make a pilgrimage. In fact many believe that Jerusalem would be the safest place when Day of Judgement comes about.

      So no, even from that perspective that is clearly wrong. And trying to argue that christians have no attachment to the land, many christians would beg to differ especially those who are inhabitant to the land. THere are billions of Christians, so obviously they do not share the same notion as the Jews in regards to the land (immigrating back to the Holy land), but it does not mean they do not have an attachment to the land.

      Reply to Comment
    39. the other joe

      @xyz – there is little evidence that Christians are leaving the West Bank because of persecution by Muslims. I have asked a considerable number of Palestinian Christians about this, have you? If not, where are you getting your information from?

      Reply to Comment
    40. annie

      once again, thank you yossi.
      some of these comments sicken me. i guess it started out with joe. “none of this sounds particularly bad.”
      y’know, i am not a zionist but i respect the historical. i wonder sometimes if most jewish israelis really comprehend that land you’re on..it’s the holy land for other people too and means as much to them as to you. that will never change because you may regard it as solely your land. this is why our embassy is not in jerusalem. this is why jerusalem was supposed to be under some kind of international jurisdiction. so no, it’s really not ok, it is “particularly bad” the government ruling the holy land is not enforcing the law/respecting the people representing other religions. i am not a religious person but as i respect your historical attachment to the land i respect the inclusion of the others historical attachment. how do you expect others to respect your history when you spit on theirs? you don’t deserve this if you can’t honor the other people of the holy land. you’ve been offered a gift and you should cherish it and all the people who come with the land, and all of their histories. you’re in the holy land and you should not be desecrating it like this.
      it makes me sick reading this, make the land holy again for it is suffering now. shame shame shame.

      Reply to Comment
    41. max

      @annie, reread, rethink: what makes you think that ‘joe’ is an Israeli Jew?
      And if he’s not – what’s left of your post and rebuff?

      Reply to Comment
    42. Ira

      Mr Gurvitz

      My grandfather, z”l like countless others was tortured — with nail-encrusted whips — in Russia because he wouldn’t kiss the cross. Who’s going to ask m’chila for those crimes? Am I supposed to feel ahava for a religion (Christianity) that views me as at best an imperfect being for not accepting their savior, and at worst as worthy of eternal punishment and damnation ?

      You may be able to forget the millions that Christianity has massacred and tortured through their history — I can’t and I won’t.

      Reply to Comment
    43. aristeides

      “The Other Joe” has claimed to be an American Christian, iirc.

      Reply to Comment
    44. RichardL

      Ira-
      What are you – the personal redeemer to the millions of victims to Christianity throughout the centuries? If the whole of humanity took your attitude life would be one long blood feud. Yes, far worse than now.

      “I can’t and I won’t”. Proper little tantrum eh?

      Reply to Comment
    45. the other joe

      I am a Christian, but I am not a USAmerican and never claimed to be. I have travelled many times in the West Bank, have been invited a few times to Gaza but never made it.
      .
      @Ira, I am sorry for your pain, but I can’t see that your feelings of retribution towards other people (who just happen to share the same religion) helps anything very much.

      Reply to Comment
    46. aristeides

      Thanks for the correction, Other.

      Reply to Comment
    47. annie

      sorry all, it was in the wee hrs here when i wrote this and really devastated by the article, feeling overly emotional when i started reading the comments. my post was not directed at joe, although i did use joe’s comment about what was ““particularly bad”. i probably should have made that clearer although i did try to place a space between the paragraphs. it’s really irrelevant what religion joe is.
      max, what’s left of my post? you mean starting at the third paragraph? i suppose the anger i felt after reading ‘Israel’s not-so-stellar record on treatment of Christians’. my anger just erupted after reading some of the responses.
      it still stands, what i feel. but i shouldn’t be posting at the wee hrs, too revealing of my true feelings. please ignore.

      Reply to Comment
    48. XYZ

      I do not put so-called “Messianic Jews” in the same category as regular Christians. Christians should be Christians, Muslims should be Muslims and Jews should be Jews. As far as I am concerned, I (and Israel as a Jewish state) have no problem with Christians doing their own thing, but I DO have a problem with missionary activity directed at Jews. After the depredations the Christian world has directed at the Jewish population in their midst, including a massive decrease in the world’s Jewish population in the 20th century, carried out by Christians, I would hope and assume that modern Christians would understand the sensitivity of actions taken to take Jews away from their Jewish roots. Many Christians do , and I am appreciative of this.
      Gurvitz has a negative view of all religions, his “concern” for the “Messianic Jews” has nothing to do with any feelings of tolerance or identification with them on his part, the opposition the mainline Jewish community feels to them is merely another in his long shopping list of complaints against the traditional Jewish religious community

      Reply to Comment
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