Palestine (MNN) – Talk of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to sweep in and out of the news. However, after decades of seemingly unproductive talks, Palestinian Christians want their basic human rights, regardless of a two-state or one-state solution.
Jack Sara, president of Bethlehem Bible College, describes the current situation between Israel and Palestine as a stalemate with deteriorating conditions on the ground.
“People are losing hope that there will be any solutions. They feel that things are going back instead of going forward. The whole political instability, the economic pressure that…the Palestinians are facing…with no solutions,” Sara describes.
Sara says 35,000 Christian Palestinians live in and around Bethlehem. It is an area hit hard by the building of the Israeli West Bank Barrier and land confiscation by the Israeli government.
“A lot of the Christians are still desperate to find a place where they, their kids are growing in peace and the…atmosphere where in Palestine it’s not that way. Still, the checkpoints are all over the place. The wall is being just erected, continued to kind of like suffocate almost the life of our Palestinians, especially in Bethlehem where the concentration of Christians is the highest in all of the West Bank,” Sara explains.
Because of challenges with the occupation, Palestinian Christians with family residing in cities inside Israel like Jerusalem cannot visit each other.
“Palestinians don’t have the right to move around the country. They have no access to borders that they could fly out from except for Jordan. There’s a lot of I would say [a] lack of freedom in many ways, and lack of opportunities because of that. The economy’s being controlled still by Israel,” Sara shares.
An Unheard Story
Palestinian Christians also face silence. Their plight rarely makes the news. Reports of bombings and fighting drown the cries of the oppressed, their story is overlooked and lost in the chaos. The loss of their story has meant many people in the West, including America, are ill-informed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I think it’s worthwhile for Christians first to dig deeper into understanding the realities on the ground and specifically how Christians are living. If we are concerned about the Church, we have to be concerned about the Christians in the Holy Land because the Holy Land is bleeding from its Christians. The Christians are leaving. You know that includes committed believers, includes ministers, includes people who are…not leaving by their own choice,” Sara explains.
Recently, a Palestinian Christian leader at Bethlehem Bible College was coerced to leave when his wife, a foreigner, was denied a family reunification visa to live with him in Palestine. However, their story is not an anomaly.
“Another couple, the husband was deported from the borders so…she’s now facing the question, ‘Should I stay working with Bethlehem Bible College serving God or just follow after my husband because he cannot live beside me here in Bethlehem?’,” Sara recalls.
Be Prayerful, Be Active
Please pray for peace. Pray for a solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which provides basic human rights and freedoms to all people, regardless of faith or nationality. Ask for God to make himself known through his Palestinian Christians.
“I believe Christ is concerned for our situation and Bethlehem, that He gave the ultimate sacrifice for, and the church there is struggling to survive. We wanted not just to survive but to thrive and be able to expand God’s kingdom among our peoples,” Sara says.
Ask yourself if we, as the global Church, do not support our Palestinian family who will be left to share the Gospel in the Holy Land?
Sara invites any Christians traveling to the Holy Land to add a stop to Bethlehem Bible College on their itinerary. Take time to meet with your Palestinian brothers and sisters and learn more about their challenges.
Want to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of Palestinian Christians? Then CLICK HERE to visit Bethlehem Bible College’s website for more details.
Header photo image Bethlehem, photo courtesy of Bethlehem Bible College.