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Mona Pereth
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26 Dec 2023, 5:47 am

Earlier I wrote the following, about the small minority of Palestinian Christians who still speak Aramaic (albeit only as a liturgical language, not in everyday use), and how the loss of their culture would be a huge loss to the world:

Mona Pereth wrote:
Aramaic-speaking Christians are probably the only Christians, other than Bible scholars, who can fully appreciate Jesus's sense of humor. (When the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are translated from ancient Greek back into Aramaic, you get a lot of Aramaic puns.)

Looking now at the Wikipedia page on Arameans in Israel and Palestine:

Quote:
Arameans in Israel and Palestine are a Christian minority residing in either the State of Israel or the State of Palestine. They claim to descend from the Arameans, an ancient Semitic-speaking people in the Middle East in the 1st millennium BC.

Some Syriac Christians in the Middle East espouse an Aramean ethnic identity, and a minority still speak various Neo-Aramaic languages, with the Eastern branch being widely spoken. Until 2014, self-identified Arameans in Israel were registered as ethnic Arabs or without an ethnic identity. Since September 2014, Aramean has become a valid identity on the Israeli population census, making Israel the first country in the world to officially recognize Arameans as a modern community. Christian families or clans who can speak Aramaic and/or have an Aramaic family tradition are eligible to register on the census as ethnic Arameans in Israel.

According to a 2022 article in Middle Eastern Studies, no fewer than 2,500 Israelis are known to have registered as Arameans at the Israeli Ministry of Interior, whereas another 2,000 are known to have applied for changing their national denomination from Arab to Aramean. These 4,500 people in total constitute c. 1.5% of Israel's Christian population.

The variant of Aramaic that is most commonly used as a liturgical language is called classical Syriac. The three ancient Christian denominations that use it and have churches in Israel and Palestine are:

- The Maronite Church (Eastern Catholic)
- The Syriac Catholic Church (Eastern Catholic)
- The Syriac Orthodox Church (Oriental Orthodox)

The recognition of Arameans as a distinct ethnic group, in Israel, is controversial. More about this in my next post.


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Last edited by Mona Pereth on 26 Dec 2023, 5:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

Mona Pereth
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26 Dec 2023, 5:48 am

The recognition of Arameans as a distinct ethnic group, in Israel, is controversial.

Many Palestinians feel that this is a divide-and-rule tactic on the part of Israel. See the article Israel recognizes ‘Aramaics’ as separate ethnicity: "Critics call it an attempt by the government to encourage splits within its Arab population, which largely defines itself as Palestinian," Reuters, via Alarabiya News, published 09 November 2014, updated 20 May 2020:

Quote:
In the green hills of the Galilee, where Jesus is said to have preached two thousand years ago, a group of Aramaic speakers looking to revive the language of Christ are celebrating a victory in their quest to safeguard their heritage.

In a place where tensions run high on issues of ethnicity, faith and citizenship, members of the Christian sect have won the right to change their designation in the population registry from "Arab" to a newly-created ethnic classification: "Aramaic."

The group that sought the change is small, a few hundred people at most, but their campaign is part of a larger debate on issues of identity in the Holy Land and Israel's treatment of its Arab minority.

In the green hills of the Galilee, where Jesus is said to have preached two thousand years ago, a group of Aramaic speakers looking to revive the language of Christ are celebrating a victory in their quest to safeguard their heritage.

In a place where tensions run high on issues of ethnicity, faith and citizenship, members of the Christian sect have won the right to change their designation in the population registry from "Arab" to a newly-created ethnic classification: "Aramaic."

The group that sought the change is small, a few hundred people at most, but their campaign is part of a larger debate on issues of identity in the Holy Land and Israel's treatment of its Arab minority.

Supporters say Israel's agreement to allow the group to define itself as "Aramaic" is a sign of ethnic tolerance.

But critics call it an attempt by the government to encourage splits within its Arab population, which largely defines itself as Palestinian and makes up about a fifth of the country's 8.2 million citizens.

Others say it is also another reflection of the reality for Arabs in Israel, where many Arab citizens say they are discriminated against.

[...]

The campaigners are all residents of the village of Jish and belong to the Maronite Church, which took root in fifth-century Lebanon. Its liturgical language is Aramaic, dialects of which are spoken by no more than a few hundred thousand people across the world.

[...]

But not everyone in the Arab village of 3,000 is pleased.

"They are ashamed of their ethnicity," said Marvat Marun, 39. "I'm Arab, a Christian Maronite Arab, and proud of it. My roots are Palestinian."

Knesset Member Basel Ghattas, of the Arab party Balad, said Israel's recognition of the minority was meant to sow divisions and animosity within the Arab population.

"This is a divide-and-rule policy, not to see us, the Arabs, as part of the Arab Palestinian nation or a national minority, but as a collection of small ethnic groups and to sow disputes and splits among us," said Ghattas, who is Christian.

The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries Justice and Peace Commission, the Catholic Church of the Holy Land, called on those planning to change their listing to "come to their senses":

"We are Christian, Palestinians, Arabs," it said in a statement. "Israel does not need Christians who have deformed their identity, who position themselves as enemy of their own people and who become soldiers for war."

"Serve yourselves, serve your people and serve Israel in remaining faithful to the truth, i.e. faithful to your identity as Christians, as Palestinians and as peacemakers."

[...]

Chen Bram, an anthropologist at the Hebrew University, said the Galilee Aramaic speakers' campaign can be seen in a wider political context.

"It shows us that it is hard to be Arab in Israel and that there is growing polarization in Israeli society."

Israeli society has a de facto hierarchy in which Jews are at the top, Bram said. The more one is seen as closer to the Palestinians, the lower one ranks, and "if you distinguish yourself from that group, you make it easier for yourself in contact with the authorities and getting support for your culture," he said.

About 83 percent of Israeli Arabs are Muslim and about eight percent Christian, according to the Israeli government statistics bureau. The remainder are Druze.

Fady Mansour, 36, intends to change his listing to Aramaic, and said he was motivated partly by social advancement.

"Arab is inferior in Israeli society," he said, speaking from the stone steps of Jish's church. "When there is a (Palestinian) attack people yell 'death to Arabs'. Why do I have to be included in that?"

Bram says formal recognition of an Aramaic ethnicity is also linked to a recent push by Israel to recruit Christian Arabs into the military.

Christian Arabs traditionally stand alongside Muslims when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian issues, which means that they do not volunteer for army service.

"This raises great controversy among the Christian communities," Bram said of the move.

The new designation may help the Aramaic community in Jish with another campaign, this one over land.

Many in Jish have roots in Birim, a neighbouring village whose Maronite residents were expelled by Jewish forces in the 1948 war of Israel's founding. Israel razed the village in 1953, sparing only its church and bell tower.

In a legal battle going back decades, Birim villagers have campaigned to be allowed to return and rebuild.

No longer being classified by Israel as "Arab" could help the community separate its claim from the issue of right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns were razed, left empty or taken over in the war and their residents fled or were expelled. The Palestinians demand that up to five million refugees and their descendants be allowed to return.

"I don't care about the right of return, the Palestinian struggle. I want to rebuild an Aramaic village," Khalloul said.

Nadim Issa, 59, who convenes meetings of the Aramaic Society at his winery, said: "The day will come when we rebuild Birim. Just as they granted us ethnicity, they will give us back our land."


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26 Dec 2023, 9:13 pm



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F96Omaj ... racyNow%21


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29 Dec 2023, 4:53 am

Post on X (Twitter) by the Armenian Patriarchate Of Jerusalem on December 28, 2023:

Quote:
URGENT COMMUNIQUE

1. A MASSIVE AND COORDINATED PHYSICAL ATTACK WAS LAUNCHED ON BISHOPS, PRIESTS, DEACONS, SEMINARIANS, AND OTHER ARMENIAN COMMUNITY MEMBERS IN JERUSALEM. SEVERAL PRIESTS, STUDENTS OF THE ARMENIAN THEOLOGICAL ACADEMY, AND INDIGENOUS ARMENIANS ARE SERIOUSLY INJURED

The Armenian Quarter is one of the four sectors of the walled Old City of Jerusalem. (See Wikipedia article on the Armenian Quarter.)

The relevant church denomination is the Armenian Apostolic Church, one of the world's most ancient church denominations.


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29 Dec 2023, 5:20 am

Israeli police fails to stop new mob attack on Jerusalem Armenian Quarter amid 'land grab', The New Arab, 28 December, 2023:

Quote:
The attack comes as The New Arab publishes a series of investigations into a murky deal to acquire land in Jerusalem that underpins violence against Armenians.

Masked men numbering around 30 stormed the Armenian Quarter in occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday, assailing community members with the Israeli police late to intervene, according to eyewitnesses.

A widely shared video from the scene shows masked men throwing rocks and other objects at members of the Armenian clergy.

Police later arrived at the scene and cleared the area. It is unclear if arrests have been made.

The identity of the assailants was not immediately clear, but Armenian activists in Jerusalem blamed the attack on George Warwar. Warwar is a Jaffa man thought to be involved in a controversial and now cancelled deal to acquire a plot of land in the Armenian neighbourhood ostensibly to build a luxury hotel by Jewish investors.

The New Arab has published a series of investigations into the deal and its links with the extremist Israeli settler movement. The controversy prompted companies signed up to the project to scale back their involvement, including Safdie Architects.

Christian Armenian activists accuse Jewish settler groups of trying to assert control over the disputed piece of land that has been in the possession of the Armenian Patriarchate for centuries. These settler groups are believed to be linked to Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel's far-right national security minister.

Xana Capital, a company owned by Danny Rubenstein, also known as Danny Rothman, is claiming a large property in the Armenian Quarter after signing a questionable deal with the Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian several years ago. The Armenian Patriarchate has since withdrawn from the agreement, and the matter is now in the courts.

The details of the agreement between the Patriarch and Danny Rubenstein are not entirely transparent, but community members are determined to annul the deal and maintain hold of the land.

The Armenian Patriarchate issued a strong message referring to the violent episode as an "existential threat", stating that "Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Seminarians and indigenous Armenians are fighting for their very lives".

"We call upon the Israeli government and the Police to start an investigation against Danny Rothman and George Warwar for organising their criminal attacks on the Armenian Patriarchate and community, attacks which seem to have no end in sight", the statement added.

Similar attacks against the Armenian community occurred recently.

Last month, on two separate occasions, private security guards and Israeli and Jewish settlers burst into the Armenian Quarter accompanied by two bulldozers.


Video explainer here:



See also this video on X/Twitter showing the mob attack.


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31 Dec 2023, 11:02 pm

Something I meant to post last week, for Christmas, but I lost track of it:

Jesus was born here - an informative tour of the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem -- posted last year, Dec 11, 2022 -- a happier time than this year. Posted by Israeli tour guide Zahi Shaked.


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05 Jan 2024, 12:13 am

Beaten Down, But Not Forsaken: The Suffering of Gaza’s Christians, on the website International Christian Concern (persecution.org), 11/15/2023:

Quote:
As the Israel-Hamas war enters its second month, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has surrounded Gaza City’s center to remove Hamas’ military and governance control over the territory. With casualties mounting (more than 11,000 at the time of writing) and fighting centering around Gaza’s main hospitals, many difficult questions surround the rising civilian casualties and how this tragic war will unfold in the coming weeks for Palestinian civilians living in the densely populated strip.

Amid all characteristics and coverage on the clash of worldviews and politics underlying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including this current escalation of the conflict, the Gazan Christian community, often found stuck in the crossfire of conflict, is often not known or acknowledged in media coverage. So, who are the Christians of Gaza, what is their suffering in the current conflict, and what does their future look like through this dark hour?

An Ancient Community

Christianity in Gaza is considered to date back to the 4th century, with the establishment of monastic communities by St. Hilarion. The oldest church still active in Gaza is Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church. St. Porphyrius was a 5th-century bishop of Gaza. The church site is considered among the three oldest churches in the world and predates Islam’s arrival to the region.

Contemporary Crises

Many of Gaza’s modern Christians are descendants of the Arab Christian communities from cities on the Mediterranean coasts, such as Joppa. They came to Gaza when displaced in the wake of the first of several Arab-Israeli wars after the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. Other Christians in Gaza have lived in the city and surrounding cities for centuries.

In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza under the Disengagement Plan Implementation Law passed in the Israeli Knesset. Afterwards, various Palestinian political blocs competed for control, with Hamas taking control in 2007. Gaza’s Christians have suffered through five major conflicts between Hamas/armed militant groups and Israel in 2008-09, 2012, 2014, 2021, and now 2023. These conflicts have also come at the same time as a nearly 17-year Israeli-led blockade of the Gaza Strip that has contributed to the high rates of unemployment, poverty, and political hardships for all Palestinian civilians, including Christians.

Life in Gaza as a Christian

More than 80% of Gaza’s Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. Around 100 Roman Catholics are a part of the Latin parish of the Church of the Holy Family. The remaining are a part of the Baptist/Protestant church of Gaza. Despite their small number and religious minority status in a volatile region, Gaza’s Christian community has historically played an outsized influence in Gaza’s society. Many of the best educational, medical, and business institutions have been started and operated by Christians, even to this day. These accomplishments and institutions stand as reminders of Palestinian Christians’ significant contributions in culture, charity, and even political development in Palestinian history.

The years since 2007 to the present, unfortunately, have seen a sharp decline in the Christian population despite a rapid increase in Gaza’s population during the same period. In 2007, the Christian population was estimated around 3,000 people, while in 2023, it is fewer than 1,000 in the region of over 2 million people. High rates of emigration from the pressures of living in Gaza, coupled with the challenges of being a Christian minority in Gaza, has resulted in a dwindling remnant.

In multiple accounts since 2007, Christians from Gaza have described their situation in Gaza as living between two hammers. On the one hand, living under Israeli blockade due to Hamas conflict with Israel has squeezed the economy, resulting in more than 60% unemployment, a breakdown in civil services, and extreme poverty. As one Gazan Christian described it: “I have never been to prison, but I normally live in a prison.” Secondly, the blockade and resulting wars between Islamic factions in Gaza and Israel have killed, including this current conflict, an estimated more than 20,000 Gazan civilians in the past 17 years through frequent air strikes, rocket firing, and military and terrorism. Also, travel limitations for Gaza’s Christians to visit relatives and Christian Holy sites in Jerusalem and the West Banks have been severely limited. Last year, for example, only 50% of Gaza’s Christians were approved by the Israeli government to travel. Even the slightest, even unknown, association with Hamas-linked individuals can be reason for denial to travel from the strip. Sadly, living under such restrictions from Israel and under consistent suspicion of being foreign collaborators by Hamas leaves Gaza’s Christians further isolated from global Christians’ support and solidarity with the suffering community.

On the other hand, Gaza’s Christians live under Hamas’ governance, a Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamic militant group. During the volatile period of 2006-2008 in Gaza, Islamic militants killed Rami, a Christian manager of the Bible Society bookstore. Several other Christian leaders later left the strip after facing several death threats from militants. While targeted violence against the Christian community thankfully have not occurred in recent years, Christians are often treated as second class citizens as a tiny minority in an Islamist governed territory. This is especially true for individuals who decide to convert to Christianity from a Muslim background. These individuals, whether secretly or publicly, face rejection from their family, culture, and Muslim religious leaders, and are considered as apostates and traitors deserving strict punishment. While such cases are very rare in the Hamas monitored and controlled religious atmosphere in Gaza, those who have made the decision to become Christians have lost home and family to protect their own lives, often by going into secret hiding.

Present Sufferings of Gazan Christians

With more than 11,000 deaths so far in one month of fighting in Gaza, many of whom were civilians, including an estimated 4,500 children, the small Christian community is living in great fear of what will happen to them and their churches. Most of Gaza’s approximate 800 Christians have been taking refuge in two of the city’s churches, both located in northern Gaza’s old city. The church doors have also opened to serve non-Christians who are suffering alongside them, consistent with Gaza’s Christians’ spirit of charity that has served Gaza’s people through past crises. The fighting this week continued to spread closer to just a few neighborhoods away from the churches as the IDF continues advancing to the city center in its efforts to hunt down Hamas leadership.

Stories of human suffering continue to come out of Gaza, with the Christian community being no exception. On October 19, an Israeli airstrike in Gaza’s Zeitoun district hit a nearby target to the Greek Orthodox church, causing one of the buildings to collapse and killed several dozen people inside, most of them Christians. A total of two infants and four children were killed. One of the fathers of a young family was killed while covering his three children with his body to successfully save their lives from the collapsing ceiling. This past week, an 81-year-old church piano player was shot while walking to her home to scavenge for food. Food supplies are running low in the churches.

The supermarkets, while open, only have lemons and basic hygiene supplies left. Elderly Christians, including cancer patients, have had to stop daily medical treatment. With winter approaching, many families are concerned since they left their homes suddenly and did not bring all their winter clothes with them. Many have already confirmed that their buildings and homes have been destroyed. Others are praying that their houses are spared in the coming days of expected intense urban street fighting. Communications with the outside world have slowed as communication networks and power go off. Bad water is further complicating health problems in both children and adults.

Then there is the grieving. The grief of loss, of trauma. The loss of homes, of displacement, of the destruction of their city. Like the prophet Jeremiah helplessly witnessed the destruction of his city, Jerusalem, so too many of Gaza’s Christians weep the destruction of their city. There is no doubt a traumatic despair of faith among Gaza’s Christians that will last for many years to come. The United Nation’s recently described Gaza under its current circumstances as a “graveyard for children.” Those children that will survive will most probably be a generation marked by tremendous trauma. A total of four out of five of Gaza’s children before this war reported “that they live with depression, grief, and fear,” according to a study conducted by international NGO Save the Children. This conflict will only surely add to the great need to help Gaza’s children heal both now and for the next generations to come.

What’s Next?

With elderly relatives in pain and parents mourning the death of their children, many of Gaza’s Christians are asking where God is in all of this? What is the purpose in all of this, and where are we headed from here when this war stops? For Gaza’s Christians, their future is very uncertain, and for now their focus indeed is on survival and ensuring safety for their families during this horrible and dark time of suffering. On the one hand, could this be the final push that brings an end to Gaza’s ancient indigenous Christian community? Or could it be trial by fire to bring new beginnings for the remnant of surviving Christians?


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05 Jan 2024, 3:45 am

NibiruMul wrote:
Contrary to popular belief, many Arab Christians are actually very conservative, just like Arab Muslims. A lot of them are homophobic and anti-Israel just like the Muslims. I doubt you'd get away with wearing a bikini in a predominantly Maronite or Eastern Orthodox village in Lebanon. Arab Christians in the US, Canada, and Latin America tend to be more Westernized because they've gotten used to living in Western culture, especially if they came generations ago. Copts and Assyrians also tend to be quite conservative.

With names, it depends. Some Arab Christians do use Western names, while others use Arabic names. They generally avoid ultra-Muslim names like Muhammad and Aisha, but secular Arabic names such as Khalil and Amal are common among them (as well as among Muslims). There are also Arabic names specific to Christians like Boutros and Maroun (the latter being the name of a saint who started the Maronites).

Sirhan Sirhan was a Christian, although he is commonly mistaken for Muslim. His family was probably never Muslim. (Many Palestinian Christians have been Christian since the time of Jesus.)

Christianity in the Middle East is very, very far from American evangelical Christianity. They are ancient churches that preserve a lot of old customs no longer observed by Western Christians (such as fasting), and they are much closer to the Christianity of Jesus' time than any Western church. I actually feel like Eastern Christianity is probably the closest Christianity to the original Christianity.



Quote:
I doubt you'd get away with wearing a bikini in a predominantly Maronite or Eastern Orthodox village in Lebanon.


Yes, you would.

The rest of your post is true.



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05 Jan 2024, 10:14 am

P.S. to my previous post:

Mona Pereth wrote:
Beaten Down, But Not Forsaken: The Suffering of Gaza’s Christians, on the website International Christian Concern (persecution.org), 11/15/2023:

I have no reason to doubt any of the specifics of the article I posted. However, looking more closely at the website I found it on, I generally am not inclined to trust that website because it has a strong Christian nationalist bias, with an exaggerated view of what constitutes "persecution" of Christians. It sees the increasing secularization of the West as "persecution" of Christians, e.g. in the article "Australia’s Christian heritage continues to be eroded and attacked," complaining about "atheist groups" objecting to the official use of Christian prayers at the beginning of each session of the Australian Parliament.


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05 Jan 2024, 11:08 am

A source I am more inclined to trust is Under Caesar's Sword, "a three-year, collaborative global research project that investigates how Christian communities respond when their religious freedom is severely violated," on the website of the University of Notre Dame. According to its page about Gaza (last updated June 2022 -- well before the current war):

Quote:
Christian Demographics

Between 2014 and 2021, the population of the Gaza Strip increased from 1.8 million to 2 million, according to U.S. government estimates. However, the population of Christians decreased over the same period due to extremely high levels of emigration and declining birth rates. 1,300 Christians now remain in Gaza, down from an estimated 3,000 prior to 2007. A 2014 survey by the YMCA suggests that eighty-nine percent of the Christian population in Gaza are Greek Orthodox, while 9.3 percent are Roman Catholic, and 1.52 percent belong to Baptist and other Protestant denominations.

History of the Gazan Christian Community

Christianity in Gaza dates to the fourth century, and Gaza is home to some of the oldest churches in the world. Hilarion, a leading figure of early Christianity, was the Gazan founder of monastic life in Palestine. After World War II and the establishment of the Israeli state, however, a large number of Christians left the region.

Current Situation of the Gazan Christian Community

Today, Christians in Gaza are squeezed on two fronts. First, Gaza is subject to an Israeli blockade that cripples the economy, contributing to an unemployment rate of around 50 percent, and severely limits freedom of movement for Palestinians. This blockade isolates the small Christian community and prevents them from seeking solidarity with the larger Church or traveling to holy sites. Gazan Christians must seek travel permits to visit family and holy sites in Israel and the West Bank during Christmas. For Christmas in 2021, Israel issued permits for about half of Gaza’s Christian population. Consequently, many Gazan families were unable to travel for Christmas together.

Gaza endured significant armed clashes between Israel and militants in Gaza in 2008-09, 2012, and 2014 that debilitated its already damaged infrastructure and virtually destroyed its ability to produce goods for the domestic market. In May 2021, eleven days of fighting between Hamas and Israel resulted in many civilian casualties and destroyed essential civilian infrastructure in Gaza such as hospitals. A 2012 United Nations report suggested that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if existing economic and political trends persisted. Ten years on, conditions have not improved, yet 2 million people still inhabit Gaza.

On the other side, Christians are squeezed by the policies of Hamas—the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood—which came to power in 2007. The reign of Hamas began an insidious Islamization process from above and especially from below, which was deepened after the Arab Uprisings of 2011 and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in neighboring Egypt.

In 2007, shortly after Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip, extremists firebombed the last Christian bookstore in Gaza City on two occasions and abducted and killed the bookstore’s owner, who had maintained the store for years despite receiving numerous death threats. Although this level of violence against Gazan Christians has fortunately not continued, Christians in Gaza today are targeted on the basis of their religious faith in ways even more acute and systematic than Christians in the West Bank and Israel. Christians feel coercion to convert to Islam, while Christian women experience harassment and pressure to cover their hair and adopt Islamic forms of attire. In general, Christians are made to feel like second-class citizens, despite their Palestinian patriotism and historical affinity to the land.

Responses to Persecution

In Gaza, as in other parts of the Holy Land, the ecclesiastical and lay responses to the Israeli blockade and to the Islamization of society diverge. On the one hand, the leaders of the ancient churches believe that the only response that would ensure their survival and the protection of their historic heritage, both architectural and cultural, is to remain. But on the other hand, many everyday struggling Christians consider emigration the only option for the preservation of family cohesion and survival, just as many members of the broader Gazan population believe that leaving Gaza is their only hope for a better livelihood.

Christian leaders have sought to ensure the survival of a Christian presence in Gaza through strategies of association. For example, when Muslim leaders began to openly vilify Christians as infidels, Christian leaders sought dialogue with both the imams of the mosques and the leaders from the Islamic establishment. In some instances, Muslim religious leaders desisted from anti-Christian rhetoric. However, Hamas does not address discrimination against Christians, and no measures have been taken to stop the slurring of Christians by, for example, children on the street. Christian churches have also played a patriotic and humanitarian role, emphasizing both solidarity with Palestinian forces resisting Israeli occupation and compassion for civilians impacted by the conflict. During the 2014 Gaza War, for example, the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrius opened as a refuge for people of all religious backgrounds fleeing Israeli shells. In 2015, after a funeral in the same church for a civilian killed by an Israeli missile, both Christians and Muslims participated in the victim’s burial.

Continuing a long tradition of friendly relations between Christians and Muslims, churches observe courteous and respectful relations with the authorities, ensuring that on every religious festivity, Christian leaders pay their Muslim counterparts a visit to wish them well, just as Muslim leaders have traditionally attended major Christian religious celebrations. Gazan Christians and Muslims continue to celebrate Christmas together, despite a 2020 Hamas directive attempting to forbid this. However, in essence, the churches in Gaza have little leverage in engaging with the authorities and are therefore in a weak position to hold the authorities accountable for any infringements.

The Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church have also played central roles in providing education for girls and boys in Gaza through their Christian-run schools. These schools, though not entirely immune from attempts at Islamization, have been particularly important for creating a safe enclave for Christians to be educated without intense Islamic indoctrination. One way the Greek Orthodox Church in particular has adapted to the Israeli blockade is by appointing Greek priests to parishes in Gaza and encouraging them to learn Arabic upon arrival. They reason that foreign-born priests are less likely to face mobility restrictions than Arab priests, although the cultural differences can present other problems.

If I recall correctly, the Catholic church in Gaza has an Italian priest, as do at least some other Roman Catholic churches in both Israel and Palestine, probably for the same reason. Israel gives much more freedom of movement to foreigners than to Palestinians.

Quote:
Additionally, churches have sought to support their followers by establishing housing projects on land that has been endowed to them, often through tenancy. They have been unsuccessful, however, in helping the Christian community secure employment. In fact, many Gazan Christians criticize Christian organizations (in particular charitable and developmental ones) for privileging Muslim applicants, a policy they believe to be driven by a desire to appease the Islamic authorities and avoid bureaucratic hurdles. Many fear that faced with the absence of jobs, the only recourse of young Christian men would be to emigrate.

Lay Christians adapt to the Islamization of society in disparate ways. Some Christian men grow their beards so as not to stand out (in other words coping by assimilating). Many women, on the other hand, choose resistance and refuse to don any form of head cover even if it means being exposed to harassment on the streets or restricting their freedom of mobility. Despite these strategies, however, emigration, though always difficult and often impossible, remains the primary strategy of survival. Many leaders fear that if trends are not reversed, the indigenous Christian population in Gaza could become extinct.


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Mona Pereth
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12 Jan 2024, 12:41 am

An influential Palestinian Protestant theologian is Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb. According to the short bio on his website:

Quote:
Founder and President of Dar al-Kalima University in Bethlehem. The most widely published Palestinian theologian to date, Dr. Raheb is the author and editor of 50 books including: Decolonizing Palestine: The Land, The People, The Bible; In the Eye of the Storm: Middle Eastern Christians in an Age of Empire; Politics of Persecution: Middle Eastern Christians in an Age of Empire; The Cross in Contexts: Suffering and Redemption in Palestine; Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes; His books and numerous articles have been translated so far into thirteen languages. Rev. Raheb served as the senior pastor of the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem from June 1987 to May 2017 and as the President of the Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land from 2011-2016. A social entrepreneur, Rev. Raheb has founded several NGO‟s including the Christian Academic Forum for Citizenship in the Arab World (CAFCAW). He is a founding and board member of the National Library of Palestine, and a founding member of Bright Stars of Bethlehem, a US 501c3 non-for-profit organization. He is an elected member to the Palestinian National Council as well as the Palestinian Central Council.

Rev. Dr Raheb received in 2022 a Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Wartburg Theological Seminary. In 2017 he received the Tolerance Award from the European Academy of Science and Arts, in 2015 the Olof Palme Prize. In 2012 the German Media Prize was awarded to Dr. Raheb. Launched in 1992, this award was mainly granted to Heads of States, including President Obama (2016) the German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2009), Bill Clinton (1999), Nelson Mandela (1998), King Hussein of Jordan (1997), Boris Yeltsin (1996), President Arafat (1995), Yitshak Rabin (1995). He also received for his outstanding contribution to Christian education through research and publication‟ an Honorary Doctorate from Concordia University in Chicago (2003) and for his interfaith work the “International Mohammad Nafi Tschelebi Peace Award” of the Central Islam Archive in Germany (2006) and in 2007 the well-known German Peace Award of Aachen.

The work of Dr. Raheb has received wide media attention from major international media outlets and networks including CNN, ABC, CBS, 60 Minutes, BBC, ARD, ZDF, DW, BR, Premiere, Raiuno, Stern, The Economist, Newsweek, Al-Jazeera, al-Mayadin, RT, LBC, Vanity Fair, and others.

Dr. Raheb holds a Doctorate in Theology from the Philipps University at Marburg, Germany. He is married to Najwa Khoury and has two daughters, Dana & Tala.

And here is an apparently somewhat outdated Wikipedia article about him.

Here is the Youtube channel of Dar al-Kalima University (in Bethlehem, Palestine, on the West Bank), founded by Dr. Raheb.

And here is a bunch of news stories linked on Dr. Raheb's website.


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12 Jan 2024, 8:26 am

Mona, thanks for the links. Before this I didn't know much about the group Christian Palestinians.


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12 Jan 2024, 10:49 am

Here is a Publisher's Weekly review of one of Dr. Mitri Raheb's books, Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes:

Quote:
In this short work aimed at the lay reader, Raheb, a writer, preacher, and president of Dar al-Kalima University College in Bethlehem, covers an impressive range of ancient and modern Palestinian history to set geopolitical context for the writings of the Bible. Raheb’s expertise in both the Bible and the region is deep, and he calls out misconceptions by outsiders about the culture and its texts while eloquently advocating for greater attention to that culture when interpreting the Bible, in particular to the long legacy of empire in Palestine and the people’s response to repeated occupations. This is a rarely heard perspective on the Bible, and Raheb’s writing is strongest when he explicates the words of Jesus with his political and historical perspective as a Palestinian as well as his spiritual perspective as a Christian. If anything, the book is too brief to fully explore his fascinating insights. Both an accessible introduction to the subject and an eloquent reminder for those more familiar with the subject this book deserve a wide audience.


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12 Jan 2024, 11:02 am

Below is a synopsis, by the publisher, of The Politics of Persecution: Middle Eastern Christians in an Age of Empire by Mitri Raheb, Baylor University Press, 2021:

Quote:
Persecution of Christians in the Middle East has been a recurring theme since the middle of the nineteenth century. The topic has experienced a resurgence in the last few years, especially during the Trump era. Middle Eastern Christians are often portrayed as a homogeneous, helpless group ever at the mercy of their Muslim enemies, a situation that only Western powers can remedy. The Politics of Persecution revisits this narrative with a critical eye.

Mitri Raheb charts the plight of Christians in the Middle East from the invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799 to the so-called Arab Spring. The book analyzes the diverse socioeconomic and political factors that led to the diminishing role and numbers of Christians in Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan during the eras of Ottoman, French, and British Empires, through the eras of independence, Pan-Arabism, and Pan-Islamism, and into the current era of American empire. With an incisive exposé of the politics that lie behind alleged concerns for these persecuted Christians—and how the concept of persecution has been a tool of public diplomacy and international politics—Raheb reveals that Middle Eastern Christians have been repeatedly sacrificed on the altar of Western national interests. The West has been part of the problem for Middle Eastern Christianity and not part of the solution, from the massacre on Mount Lebanon to the rise of ISIS.

The Politics of Persecution, written by a well-known Palestinian Christian theologian, provides an insider perspective on this contested region. Middle Eastern Christians survived successive empires by developing great elasticity in adjusting to changing contexts; they learned how to survive atrocities and how to resist creatively while maintaining a dynamic identity. In this light, Raheb casts the history of Middle Eastern Christians not so much as one of persecution but as one of resilience.


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12 Jan 2024, 11:22 am

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb: A word from heads of churches on behalf of Christian Palestinians in Gaza, on the YouTube channel of the Institute of Palestine Studies (based in Beirut, Lebanon):



Summary here:

Quote:
"The Christians in Gaza belong to the oldest Christian community in the world, going back to the first century. In the fourth century, Gaza was a major Christian mission hub until 1948. Gaza, located in a major trade route, with a vibrant port was a cosmopolitan city, very affluent and thriving. Today there are less than 1000 Christians living in Gaza. Two-thirds of them are Greek Orthodox, one-third Roman Catholic. Their roots are deeply rooted in that city. Yet around half of them are displaced people, refugees from 1948 from Jaffa and Lydda. Yet this small community [keeps playing] a major role in their society, running eight institutions, five schools, one hospital and two vocational educational centers. Christians in Gaza played a major role in the Palestinian national involvement throughout the century. The dire situation in Gaza, the largest open air prison in the world where they see the water there are polluted with high unemployment and five wars within 15 years, led many Christians to leave Gaza. The majority of Gazan Christians today, they live in the city of Gaza in al-Rimal neighborhood, a neighborhood that was bombarded by Israel. They fled to the two churches in the Old City, thinking they will find their refuge and the safe place. Yet Israel targeted the assembly hall of the Greek Orthodox Church, killing 20 people and injuring 14. The Christians in Gaza shared the same aspiration with their Muslim neighbors, sisters, and brothers. They demand an end to the occupation, a just and lasting peace, so that they can keep their hope alive, where it's all started."

On Oct. 21, 2023, heads of churches and patriarchs via Kairos Palestine called for an end to this war, this genocide, their statement can be found here in Arabic.

On Oct. 11, via Kairos Palestine they put out a statement on the war on Gaza, which can be found in English here and in other languages here.

For more information about Kairos Palestine, the issuance and word of Christian Palestinians' published in 2009 to the world about what is happening in Palestine, click here.

The video was posted Oct 22, 2023. According to the description on YouTube, "Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb is the founder and president of Dar al-Kalima University."


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21 Jan 2024, 12:18 am

As I mentioned earlier in this thread: In Bethlehem (the birthplace of Jesus according to the Gospels), which is a part of West Bank Area A (governed by the Palestinian Authority), there is an evangelical Christian college called Bethlehem Bible College, which holds an international conference, every two years, called "Christ at the Checkpoint."

Their next conference is scheduled for May 21 to 26, 2024.

Hopefully it won't need to be canceled due to violence in the West Bank. Hopefully some influential American evangelical Christians will go there.

Here is a brief YouTube video displayed on the conference website's front page:


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