Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The fate of the Christian Palestinians

Posted by Fredsvenn on February 9, 2015

Palestine pre-1948, before Zionism/Israel

The video contains pictures of different Palestinian cities during the 1920’s and 1930’s, before the creation of the state of israel by the zionists in 1948.

Palestinian Christians are Palestinians, who belong to one of a number of Christian denominations in Israel and the Palestinian territories, including Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Catholicism (Eastern and Western rites), Anglicanism, Protestantism, and others.

In both the local dialect of Palestinian Arabic and in classical or modern standard Arabic, Christians are called Nasrani (originally the Arabic word for Nestorian) or Masihi (a derivative of Arabic word Masih, meaning “Messiah”). In Hebrew, they are called Notzri (also spelt Notsri), which means “Watcher”.

According to Ottoman records, in 1878 there were 462,465 subject inhabitants of the Jerusalem, Nablus and Acre districts: 403,795 Muslims (including Druze), 43,659 Christians and 15,011 Jews. In addition, there were perhaps 10,000 Jews with foreign citizenship (recent immigrants to the country) and several thousand Muslim Arab nomads (Bedouin) who were not counted as Ottoman subjects.

The great majority of the Arabs (Muslims and Christians) lived in several hundred rural villages. Jaffa and Nablus were the largest and economically most important towns with majority-Arab populations. According to official British Mandatory estimates, Palestine’s Christian population in 1922 comprised 9.5% of the total population (10.8% of the Palestinian population), and 7.9% in 1946. The Palestinian Christian population greatly decreased from 1948 to 1967.

Today, Christians comprise less than 4% of the Palestinian population of Israel and the Palestinian territories – approximately 8% of the Arab population of the West Bank, less than 1% in the Gaza Strip, and nearly 10% of the Arab population in Israel.

A large number fled or were expelled from the area during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and a small number left during Jordanian control of the West Bank for economic reasons. Since 1967, the Palestinian Christian population has increased in excess of the continued emigration.

There are also many Palestinian Christians who are descendants of Palestinian refugees from the post-1948 era who fled to Christian majority countries and converted to the predominant faiths there, and formed large diasporan Christian communities. In West Jerusalem, over 50% of Christian Palestinians lost their homes to the Israelis, according to the historian Sami Hadawi.

Worldwide, there are nearly one million Palestinian Christians in these territories as well as in the Palestinian diaspora, comprising over 10% of the world’s total Palestinian population. Palestinian Christians live primarily in Arab states surrounding historic Palestine and in the diaspora, particularly in South America, Europe and North America.

In 2009, there were an estimated 50,000 Christians in the Palestinian territories, mostly in the West Bank, with about 3,000 in the Gaza Strip. Of the total Christian population of 154,000 in Israel, about 80% are Arabs, many of whom also self-identify as Palestinian. The majority (56%) of Palestinian Christians live in the Palestinian diaspora.

For the Zionists the Palestinian Christians represent an obstacle to their plan to create a Jewish State in Palestine that would be 100% Jewish. In 1948, the Zionists expelled from Palestine 100,000 Christians. During the 1948 war, Zionists destroyed desecrated and profaned Christian churches, convents and institutions throughout the Occupied area of Palestine. During the June the June war of 1967 Israeli forces shelled and damaged many churches in the old city of Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Israeli forces opened the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to Jews who poured into the holiest place in Christendom indecently dressed behaving disrespectfully joking, singing and pouring pharisaic hate and insults against Christianity and against Jesus Christ inside the Holy Sepulchre and next to the tomb of Jesus Christ.

Israeli Authorities censor all films and plays to prevent mentioning the name of Jesus Christ. The Zionist reflected with their action the deep-felt hatred of everything Christian embedded in the Zionist ideology. Testimony shows that this hatred went so deep that the Zionist authorities removed the international “+” sign from mathematics textbooks because of the resemblance of the plus sign to the Christian Cross.

In 1948, nearly one million Palestinians – both Christians and Muslims – fled from the Israeli militias during the 1948 war, when the state of Israel was created, but known as the Nakba, or catastrophe, to Palestinians. Many became refugees in the West Bank and Gaza initially, but the Israeli occupation of 1967 caused a further, continuing flood of Christian Palestinian emigration.

As a result, 80% of the world’s one million Christian Palestinians now lives outside Palestine and Israel. It is the oppression of life under Israeli occupation that has driven out the Christians, for whom it is easier to find refuge in the West.

Israel has treated their Christians worse than anybody in the Middle East. Prior to 1948, a significant portion of Palestine was Christian. Some say 40% of the non-Zionists may have been Christian. Today that number is down to 10%.

There is plenty of evidence that Israel deliberately targeted Christians for expulsion over Muslims. The vast majority of Christians were expelled or murdered during Nakba by the Israelis. People don’t know this because they were never told.

In Palestine, there was no sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims. What Christians and Muslims did in the privacy of their own homes regarding their faiths is the only way to tell them apart.

Decrease in the Palestinian Christians population is a trend that has started during World War One where the young started emigrating fleeing compulsory army service in the Turkish army.

This was followed by a wave of young families and in the twentieth century it became more and more a community kind of trend. In general emigration for Palestinian Christians can be considered compulsory. Although obvious in many stages other causes are hidden and usually called challenges that are overwhelming in most cases.

In fact the major wave in the exodus of the Palestinian Christians began in 1948 followed by another one in 1967. These are the dates when Israel found ground on this land.

Since the establishment of Israel 700,000 Palestinians left their homes and fled to the West Bank, Gaza and the Diaspora fearing the Deir Yasin massacre scenario which was executed by the Zionist Hagana. Followed by another 400,000 into Diaspora in 1967 (40 % of the total Palestinian population at that time). Estimated 50,000 of them were Palestinian Christians.

In Jerusalem, the central issue and Holy City for the three religions, 50 percent of the Palestinian Christians were forced to leave their homes in West Jerusalem after 1948 war. At the end of the war 34 percent of the land seized by Israel belongs to Christians.

After what was left from these two wars and particularly from 1975 to 1995, Christians inthe area occupied by Israel went from 116,000 to 191,000 in twenty years. In demographical terms this is much less than the normal increase.

Today the number of Jews and Arabs living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean is close to parity. In total the population in Israel and the PalestinianTerritories is near 11 million.

Currently, the Holy Land Christians in this area count some 200,000 throughout Israel, the West Bank and Gaza (150,000 in Israel, and 50,000 in Palestinian territories including 10,000 in East Jerusalem). At the time of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, this number was nearer to 350,000.

The transfer of power of Bethlehem from Israel to the Palestinian Authority just before Christmas 1995 inspired a spate of articles on Bethlehem’s diminishing Christian presence. They noted that a place not long ago 80 percent Christian is now but one-third Christian.

For the first time in nearly two millennia, the most identifiably Christian town on earth has lost its Christian majority. The same changes have taken place in two other famously Christian towns, Nazareth and Jerusalem.

In Nazareth, Christians went from 60 percent of the population in 1946 to 40 percent in 1983. Jerusalem Christians in 1922 slightly outnumbered Muslims (15,000 versus 13,000); today, they number under 2 percent of the city’s population.

The same applies in other parts of Israel. A report from the Galilee village of Turan quotes a Christian store owner: “Most Christians will leave as soon as we can sell our houses and shops. We can’t live among these people [Muslims] anymore.” One journalist concludes that “The Christian community in the West Bank is close to extinction.”

Nor are Israeli-held territories unusual in this regard; Christians are fleeing from all over the Middle East. Emigration began in the aftermath of World War I and has greatly picked up in the last decade.

In Turkey, Christians constituted a population of 2 million in 1920 but now only some thousands remain. So severe is the problem that the Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul is in danger of collapsing for lack of large enough pool of candidates.

Christians earlier in this century represented about one-third of the Syrian population; now they account for less than 10 percent. In 1932, they composed 55 percent of the Lebanese population, now less than 30 percent. More than half the Christians of Iraq have left. Copts began leaving Egypt in significant numbers after the 1952 revolution.

At the present rate, the Middle East’s 12 million Christians will likely drop to 6 million in the year 2020. With time, Christians will effectively disappear from the region as a cultural and political force.

As one report puts it, “there are more Palestinians living in Bayt Jala in Chile than in Bayt Jala [on the West Bank] itself.” Along similar lines, Prince El-Hassan bin Talal notes in this issue that “there are today more Christians from Jerusalem … living in Sydney, Australia, than in Jerusalem itself.”

For many years, the plight of Middle East Christians attracted little attention in the outside world. The earlier protectors of their interests—the British, French, Russian, and Greek governments, as well as the Vatican—turned away from the current problems.

The first Christian communities in Roman Palestine were Aramaic speaking Messianic Jews and Latin and Greek speaking Romans and Greeks, who were in part descendants from previous settlers of the regions, such as Syro-Phoenicians, Arameans, Greeks, Persians, Hebrews, Nabataeans and Arabs.

Contrary to the rest of oriental Christians, the vast majority of Palestinian Christians followed the Byzantine Christianity of the emperors after the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, and were known by other Syrian Christian as Melkites (followers of the king).

The Melkites were heavily Hellenised in the following centuries abandoning their distinct Western Aramaic languages in favour of Greek. By the 7th century, Jerusalem and Byzantine Palestine became the epicentre of Greek culture in the orient. Soon after the Muslim conquests, the Melkites began abandoning Greek for Arabic, a process which made them the most Arabicised Christians in the Levant.

Most Palestinian Christians nowadays see themselves as culturally and linguistically Arab Christians with ancestors dating back to the first followers of Christ. They claim descent from a mixture of Jews and Gentiles who converted to Christianity in the first few centuries AD, Romans, Ghassanids, Byzantines, and Crusaders.

The region comprising modern Israel and State of Palestine is considered the Holy Land by Christians. Major Christian holy cities such as Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem are located in Israel and the State of Palestine.

The category of ‘Palestinian Arab Christian’ came to assume a political dimension in the 19th century as international interest grew and foreign institutions were developed there. The urban elite began to undertake the construction of a modern multi-religious Arab civil society.

When the British received from the League of Nations a mandate to administer Palestine after World War I, many British dignitaries in London were surprised to discover so many Christian leaders in the Palestinian Arab political movements. The British authorities in the Mandate of Palestine had difficulty understanding the commitment of the Palestinian Christians to Palestinian nationalism.

After the war of 1948, the Christian population in the West Bank, under Jordanian control, dropped slightly, largely due to economic problems. This is contrary to the process occurred in Israel where Christians emptied out en masse after 1948. Constituting 21% of Israel’s Arab population in 1950, they now make up just 9% of that group. These trends accelerated after the 1967 war in the aftermath of Israel’s takeover of the West Bank and Gaza.

Christians within the Palestinian Authority constituted around one in seventy-five residents. In 2009, Reuters reported that 47,000-50,000 Christians remained in the West Bank, with around 17,000 following the various Catholic traditions and most of the rest following the Orthodox church and other eastern denominations.

Both Bethlehem and Nazareth, which were once overwhelmingly Christian, now have Muslim majorities. Today about three-quarters of all Bethlehem Christians live abroad, and more Jerusalem Christians live in Sydney, Australia than in Jerusalem. Christians now comprise 2.5 percent of the population of Jerusalem. Those remaining include a few born in the Old City when Christians there constituted a majority.

In a 2007 letter from Congressman Henry Hyde to President George W. Bush, Hyde stated that “the Christian community is being crushed in the mill of the bitter Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and that expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, were “irreversibly damaging the dwindling Christian community”.

There have been reports of attacks on Palestinian Christians in Gaza from Muslim extremist groups. Gaza Pastor Manuel Musallam has voiced doubts that those attacks were religiously motivated. The Palestinian President, Prime Minister, Hamas and many other political and religious leaders condemned such attacks.

Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land, a senior Catholic spokesman, has stated that police inaction and an educational culture that encourages Jewish children to treat Christians with “contempt” has made life increasingly “intolerable” for many Christians.

Fr Pizzaballa’s statement came after pro-settler extremists attacked a Trappist monastery in the town of Latroun, setting fire to its door, and covering walls with anti-Christian graffiti denouncing Christ as a “monkey”.

The incident followed a series of acts of arson and vandalism, in 2012, targeting places of Christian worship, including Jerusalem’s 11th century Monastery of the Cross, where slogans such as “Death to Christians” and other offensive graffiti were daubed on its walls.

According to an article in the Telegraph, Christian leaders feel that the most important issue that Israel has failed to address is the practice of some ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools to teach children that it is a religious obligation to abuse anyone in Holy Orders they encounter in public, such that Ultra-Orthodox Jews, including children as young as eight, spit at members of the clergy on a daily basis.

After Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on Islam in September 2006, five churches not affiliated with either Catholicism or the Pope—among them an Anglican and an Orthodox church—were firebombed and shot at in the West Bank and Gaza.

A group called “Lions of Monotheism” claimed responsibility. Former Palestinian Prime Minister and current Hamas leader Ismail Haniya condemned the attacks, and police presence was elevated in Bethlehem, which has a sizable Christian community.

Armenians in Jerusalem, identified as Palestinian Christians or Israeli-Armenians, have also been attacked and received threats from Jewish extremists; Christians and clergy have been spat at, and one Armenian Archbishop was beaten and his centuries old cross broken. In September 2009, two Armenian Christian clergy were expelled after a brawl erupted with a Jewish extremist for spitting on holy Christian objects.

In February 2009, a group of Christian activists within the West Bank wrote an open letter asking Pope Benedict XVI to postpone his scheduled trip to Israel unless the government changes its treatment. They highlighted improved access to places of worship and ending the taxation of church properties as key concerns.

The Pope began his five-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Sunday, 10 May, planning to express support for the region’s Christians. In response to Palestinian public statements, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor criticized the political polarization of the papal visit, remarking that “[i]t will serve the cause of peace much better if this visit is taken for what it is, a pilgrimage, a visit for the cause of peace and unity”.

In November 2009, Berlanty Azzam, a Palestinian Christian student from Gaza, was expelled from Bethlehem and was not allowed to continue her studying. She had two months left for the completion of her degree. Berlanty Azzam said the Israeli military handcuffed her, blindfolded her, and left her waiting for hours at a checkpoint on her way back from a job interview in Ramallah. She described the incident as “frightening” and claimed Israeli official treated her like a criminal and denied her an education because she is a Palestinian Christian from Gaza.

In April 2014, IDF began to send enlistment notices to Christian Arab youths of military age, informing them of the possibility of joining the military. During 2013, enlistment from the Christian population has been on the rise, with 84 new recruits between July and December that year.

As of December 2013 there were approximately 140 Christians serving in the IDF, with another 400 in the reserves. Father Gabriel Naddaf from Nazareth, who established the Forum for Christian Enlistment to the IDF and one of the most active advocates of Christian- Arab enlistment, welcomed the step and said he was certain it would help increase the numbers of Christian youth volunteering for service.

In July 2014, during operation Protective Edge an Israeli-Arab Christian demonstration was held in Haifa in a protest against Muslim extremism in the Middle East (concerning the rise of the Islamic State) and in support of Israel and the IDF.

Christian Arabs are one of the most educated groups in Israel. Maariv have describe the Christian Arabs sectors as “the most successful in education system”, since Christian Arabs fared the best in terms of education in comparison to any other group receiving an education in Israel.

Christian Arabs have one of the highest rates of success in the matriculation examinations, (64%) both in comparison to the Muslims and the Druze and in comparison to all students in the Jewish education system as a group.

Arab Christians were also the vanguard in terms of eligibility for higher education. and they have attained a bachelor’s degree and academic degree more than the median Israeli population. The rate of students studying in the field of medicine was also higher among the Christian Arab students, compared with all the students from other sectors. the percentage of Arab Christian women who are higher education students is higher than other sectors.

In September 2014, Israel’s interior minister signed an order that the Aramean Christian minority in Israel could register as Arameans rather than Arabs. The order will effect about 200 families.

The mayors of Ramallah, Birzeit, Bethlehem, Zababdeh, Jifna, Ein ‘Arik, Aboud, Taybeh, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour are Christians. The Governor of Tubas, Marwan Tubassi, is a Christian. The former Palestinian representative to the United States, Afif Saffieh, is a Christian, as is the ambassador of the Palestinian Authority in France, Hind Khoury.

The Palestinian women’s soccer team has a majority of Muslim girls, but the captain, Honey Thaljieh, is a Christian from Bethlehem. Many of the Palestinian officials such as ministers, advisers, ambassadors, consulates, heads of missions, PLC, PNA, PLO, Fateh leaders and others are Christians.

Palestinian Christians (Wiki)

Palestinian Christians

Disappearing Christians in the Middle East

Christian Palestinians: A seasonal reflection

Zionist Crimes Against Christianit

Primer on Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

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