By Yosef Gad, Linga
The title of this article might be strange to some people, especially considering the fact that Christians in Israel and Arabs in general live luxuriously compared to citizens of neighbouring Arab countries like Jordan, Egypt, Saudia Arabia and Lebanon. Of course, Syria is not eligible for this comparison after its long battle that has continued for four years against terrorists in their religious garments.
The persecution that followed the Coptic Christians in Egypt, Assyrian Christians, Syrians and Chaldeans and other Christians in Syria and Iraq by the Sunni Muslims in recent years divided the Christians in Israel to two camps at least, so that every camp would look at the other group as if it does not acknowledge the dangers that surround the Christians and their historical existence in the Holy Land; they might even consider this group as betrayers of the Palestinian case, the case which they do not agree on its definition and priorities.
The terrorist organisations contributed to the division of the Arab Christians and the way they differ about defining their case and priorities especially that the organisations defined by the world as terrorist organisations and that go after Christians as well as target them in all areas of conflict within the Middle East and North Africa, are by majority organisations that follow the Sunni sect. It is the sect that most Arab Muslim citizens in Israel follow. Some of these Sunni organisations are: ISIS, Alqa’eda, Alnusra (Victory) Front, Bait Almaqdis (Jerusalem) Group , Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram, Ansar AlSharia (Law Supporters), Taliban, Immigration and infidelity, Sumali Youth Movement, Al Sunna Supporters ,A rmy of Islam.
The beginning of the Islamic movement in the Israeli North and its activity as an Islamic religious movement in favour of the Islamic caliphate and its capital Jerusalem has increased the challenges of the patriotic Christians and their acceptance in the Christian community.
Patriotic Christians try to win the support of the Arab society in general and the Christians in particular especially to make an impact on the Palestinian Israeli conflict, they consider the Palestinian authority and its Arab people at the priorities of their issues, they demand truth and justice for the Palestinian people subdued in Israel and Palestine, Christians and Muslims as well as the return of Palestinians to their lands they left in 1948. Although they are citizens and have the rights of citizens and hold Israeli passports they insist on calling themselves Palestinians, not out of their nationality because they are Israeli by nationality and considered Israeli in their travels abroad, but they are not in the column of religion because they are Christians, and not in the column of belonging, because their belonging is Arab, they are Palestinians according to the definition of the national Palestinian pact.
The “National Palestinian Pact” was written by the PLO in July 1968 in which they defined the Palestinian people in the 5th article: “Palestinians are the Arab citizens who were residing in Palestine till 1947, whether they left it or stayed, and whoever was born from an Arab Palestinian father after this date whether inside or outside Palestine is a Palestinian.”
On another hand, new trends amongst the Christian youth have emerged especially in the villages of Galilee, its cities and the coast. They have been demanding to be included within the Israeli society and be a part of its rights and duties, asserting that Israel is the safest country for the minorities in the Middle East whilst learning from what happened to the the Oriental Christians in the Arab countries. They insist on the fact that they are Israelis and hold Israeli passports; they do not acknowledge the Palestinian National Pact and consider the Palestinian case a purely Islamic case. They think that the destiny of the Christians that are not more than 1% of the population will not be different than the destiny of the Christians in Iraq, Syria, especially that the Palestinian logo is represented by Al Aqsa Mosque and that the Islamic speeches increase in their aggressiveness towards Christians in their midst, and that the Palestinian demonstrations carry this motto: “No God but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
Patriotic Christians consider the Christians who are demanding inclusion within the Israeli culture as “Zionist Christians” (betrayers) who work on isolating the Arab Christians from the Palestinian culture, whilst Christians who are demanding inclusion consider patriotic Christians oblivious to the worries of the Christians society and its challenges (betrayers too) they come against the Israelis who attack the Palestinians and ignore the attacks by the Muslims in Israel and Palestine towards the Christians in Nazareth, Jerusalem, Gaza and the West bank.
The number of Christian Aarab citizens in Israel was 129422 according to the statistics of the end of 2014; so they comprise 1.56% from the population of Israel. Their small number and division makes them fragile despite their high academic credentials and their lack of unity weakens their existence before other minorities and before the ruling Israeli government. “A cord of three strands cannot be broken” Ecclesiastes: 4: 12
In addition to these two significant trends, there is another group that is neutral; it prefers not to interfere or engage in political issues, so that they would not be accused falsely as betrayers of the Palestinian issue or its Christian society, or it might be that they only desire to get away from politics so that they would have time for their family concerns only. There is another group who are small in number who prefer waiting for a heavenly nation and not getting involved in earthly fights, believing that justice will not take place before the coming of Christ, not from the Jewish nor the Muslims should they rule.
As a Christian, I can say that I have learnt from Christ to love all people, I train myself to love the Muslims, the Jews, even the Christians my relatives, I remember the words of Jesus “be shrewd as snakes and innocent doves” (Matthew 10: 16) and his teachings in calculating the cost: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke14: 28).
Out of this approach, I ask, have the Christians in Israel counted the cost? Have they thought about the negative factors that might happen should they desire for what they are fighting for was fulfilled? Have the patriotic Christians thought about the safety of the Christians in the West Bank should Palestine gain its independence amongst an increase of extremism within the Palestinian society? Or have those who have been asking for inclusion thought about the social relations that could weaken their relationships with their Muslim neighbours if the Christians serve in the Israeli Army?
Despite all this, is it not time to unite together in Christ who strengthens us regardless of our different perspectives? Don’t we have to show love to one another even if we disagree in our opinions? Or has my neighbour become the person who believes in my case?!
And finally “But someone will say:” you have faith, I have deeds, show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by my deeds...” (James 2: 18) “Now you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply from the heart.” (1 Peter 1: 22)