Al Aqsa Conference : Leicester University
Friends of Palestine : Manchester University
World Affairs Group : University of Keele

September 2001/February 2002/April 2002
The Future of Christianity in the Holy Land

Underneath the beautiful Sea of Galilee, the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea lies a hidden fault line that runs down through the Red Sea, the Arabian Peninsula on to the heart of East Africa. Over thousands of years, earthquakes along that fault line have devastated many civilisations. Today there is a human fault line running through the same land - a fault line that prone to volcanic eruptions, as occurred following Sharon's provocative visit to the Dome of the Rock a year ago, as two peoples, like two tectonic plates, try to occupy the same land - one the military occupier, the other the occupied. Stereotypes sometimes naively and sometimes intentionally portray this as a conflict between Jew and Muslim. Most people in the West are ignorant of the very existence of an indigenous Palestinian Christian community which is haemorrhaging and close to extinction, a double minority (whether as Israeli citizens or West Bank Arabs), caught in the cross fire, as at Beit Jala, between Jewish Zionism and Muslim fundamentalism. As a friend and advocate of the Palestinian Church I want to raise and answer the question: Do Palestinian Christians have a future in Palestine? I plan to allow Palestinian friends, unable to be with us, to provide the answer in their own words.

I want to introduce you to five key pressures facing the indigenous Christian community that will determine whether they survive beyond the next 20 years. ABCDE - Apartheid, Bantustanisation, Concealment, Distortion and Emigration. To a lesser or a greater degree these pressures are also felt by Muslim Palestinians. As followers of Jesus Christ however, Christians are more vulnerable since they are called to follow the path of non-violence, refusing retaliation but instead seeking reconciliation, called by Jesus to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.

1. Apartheid
The word 'apartheid' is a Dutch Afrikaans word derived from the root 'apart' meaning 'separate' and 'heid' meaning 'hood'. In the context of South Africa it was used to describe the legal and institutional segregation of inhabitants of European descent from those of non-European descent. In 1973 the UN defined apartheid as, inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over another racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.

In 1975, the UN specifically applied that definition to Israel, condemning the ethnic exclusivism of Zionism as, 'a form of racism and racial discrimination.'

In 1987, the Jewish academic Uri Davis, published 'Israel, An Apartheid State' in which he exposed the inherent apartheid in the official structures of the Jewish State which has, since 1948, like South Africa, defined the national status and citizenship rights of its population on racial grounds. He shows how, for example, 90% of the State of Israel has been legally defined as land which only Jews can lease or cultivate. In every aspect of Israeli society, whether in terms of educational provision, access to medical care, employment rights, or treatment under the judicial system, Arabs suffer systematic and institutional discrimination and racism. I have appended two reports - one from Bet'selem, the Jewish human rights organisation which corroborate this.

In 1991 when Sir Yehudi Menuhin, the world-renowned Jewish violinist, was awarded the prestigious Wolf Prize by the Israeli Government, he gave a speech in the Israeli Knesset. Referring to Israel's continued occupation of the West Bank, Menuhin said,

"This wasteful governing by fear, by contempt for the basic dignities of life, this steady asphyxiation of a dependent people, should be the very last means to be adopted by those who themselves know too well the awful significance, the unforgettable suffering of such an existence. It is unworthy of my great people, the Jews, who have striven to abide by a code of moral rectitude for some 5,000 years, who can create and achieve a society for themselves such as we see around us but can yet deny the sharing of its great qualities and benefits to those dwelling amongst them."

A leading Jewish Professor of Linguistics at MIT, Noam Chomsky has made outspoken criticisms of the Arab Israeli peace process drawing comparisons between the State of Israel and South Africa.

The agreements incorporate the extremist version of U.S.-Israeli rejectionism… and are closest to the Sharon Plan of the early 1980s….. [They] should be compared to the institution of that monstrous system of Apartheid in the former South Africa… (upon the Palestinian people)."

The intended goal, it appears, is to ensure Israel's control of the territories, with scattered cantons of local Palestinian administration. If these are called a "Palestinian state," the result will resemble South Africa's Bantustan policy, but not quite. The Bantustans were subsidized by South Africa, while the U.S.-Israeli plan is to leave to the Palestinian cantons the task of dealing with the bitter effects of the military occupation, which barred any possibility of economic development.

The UN World Conference on Racism, held in Durban in August 2001, adopted the following declaration.

For the purpose of the present Declaration and Programme of Action, the victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are individuals or groups of individuals who are or have been negatively affected by, subjected to, or targets of these scourges... We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation. We recognize the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self determination and to the establishment of an independent state... We recognize the right of refugees to return voluntary to their homes and properties in dignity and safety, and urge all States to facilitate such return.

The African National Congress is not alone in drawing attention to the similarities between its own experience of apartheid on South Africa with that of the Palestinians.

The ANC recommits itself to ongoing solidarity with the Palestinian people and calls on the Israeli government to immediately and unconditionally end:
* its campaign of murder and terror against Palestinian activists and leaders;
* the use of live ammunition against civilians, and the deployment of military tactics and weapons of war against civilian communities;
* detention without trial;
* its ongoing gross violations of human rights, and the various forms of collective punishment it imposes on the Palestinian people;
* its illegal and provocative programme of settlement activities. Until its defeat, South Africa's apartheid regime found much in common with their Israeli counterparts. Both Afrikaner nationalism, as manifest in the apartheid state, and Zionism, as manifest in the Israeli state, propagated the ideology of an exclusive 'chosen people'. In Israel today, the government classifies its citizens as either Jew or non-Jew. These classifications are stamped into official identity documents. Political, social and economic rights and goods are allocated on the basis of this classification. Such an approach is familiar to black South Africans. It is racist.

Jeff Halper, of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions has described his own governments policies as fundamentally racist.

Whether a Palestinian state actually emerges from the Oslo process or Israel's occupation becomes permanent, The essential elements of Apartheid - exclusivity, inequality, separation, control, dependency, violations of human rights and suffering -- are likely to define the relationship between Israel and the Occupied Territories/Palestine.

Professor Edward Said, the renowned Harvard academic and professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, made the following observations in 1999 when Ehud Barak chose Ariel Sharon, known as the 'Butcher of Beirut', to be his defence minister,

Both are confirmed Arab-killers, both are clearly contemptuous of Arabs except as second- or perhaps even third-rate aliens tolerated in what both consider to be the land of Israel, and neither Barak nor Sharon is much given to visions of coexistence or equality between Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

So while Israel presents itself as a Western democracy, respecting and protecting the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, the evidence shows that it is in fact, institutionally, judicially and religiously, inherently racist. Those who defend it, or deny these facts, are in my opinion, consciously or otherwise associating themselves with racism.

Whereas in 1922 Christians made up 52% of the population of Jerusalem, they now represent just 2.5% of Jerusalemites. More Palestinian Christians born in Jerusalem now live in Sydney, Australia than there are remain in Jerusalem. According to William Dalrymple in 1922, long before the founding of the State of Israel, Christians made up 10% of the population of Palestine. He claims they tended to be wealthier and better educated than their Muslim neighbours owning most of the newspapers and filling a disproportionate number of the senior posts within the British Mandate administration. While numerically they dominated the Old City of Jerusalem, as they had done so since the 4th Century, those with better education or wealth began to move out of the cramped conditions of the Old City and built large homes for themselves in the West Jerusalem suburbs of Talbieh, Kattamon and Bak'a.

The exodus of Palestinian Christians began with the withdrawal of the British mandate forces and the war of 1948. Around 55,000 or 60% of the Palestinian Christian community fled or were driven from their homes, along with 650,000 Muslim Palestinians. As Israel occupied West Jerusalem it was the Christian Palestinians who were disproportionately made refugees. A second exodus occurred in 1967 with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Between 1967 and 1977 Israel confiscated and settled 37,000 acres of Arab land in East Jerusalem. Today only 13.5% of East Jerusalem remains in Palestinian hands.

By their intransigence at the negotiating table Israel is attempting to create irreversible facts on the ground. Between 1967 and 1992 another 19,000 Christians, or 40% of the Christians still living in the West Bank emigrated abroad.

Today only 170,000 Palestinian Christians remain in Israel and the Occupied Territories. They represent less than 0.25% of the population, and many more have left the traditional Christian villages of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour since the new Intifadah began last September.

Those that remain, both Muslim and Christian, living in the Occupied Territories such as in Ramallah, Bethany or Jericho are regularly placed under curfew and denied access, not only to their places of work and medical treatment, but also to their churches and mosques.
Even well known Jews have been critical of Israel's racist policy.

It is strangely incongruous that as Westerners we can travel thousands of miles to visit the holy sites in Jerusalem, Hebron and Bethlehem but Christians living just a few miles away are denied access to those same sites. Jonathan Kuttab is a Palestinian Human Rights lawyer. I asked him to elaborate his concerns for the future.

The Israeli coalition is always a reflection of Israeli society. We have watched Israeli society move to the right and become more racist, more fascist, more stubborn and less open to real compromise. It definitely going to be a factor.

Let me give you one illustration on how this apartheid policy is applied.

Hagop Sarkissian is the Armenian Bishop in Jerusalem. He says this:

I am seriously worried about our future. We have been here for 1600 years, yet we cannot be sure what will happen tomorrow. The Israelis claim they are the champions of religious freedom, but behind that smokescreen they make it impossible for our community to flourish. They have not granted one building permit to us since 1967, and they destroy any building we construct illegally. It took us four years to get a telephone for our infirmary, while a Shin Bet informer I know got one within a week. They neglect our streets. The Jewish Quarter is properly maintained, but the streets in the other quarters are subsiding because the old Ottoman-period drainage system is collapsing. Its worst of all in the Muslim Quarter. The people there believe the Israelis want to make their houses uninhabitable so that they have to leave; then the buildings can be acquired by settlers. They even use the tax system to put our shop keepers out of business, charging them totally arbitrary
tax demands. In 1967 we had eighty or ninety shops in the Old City, now - what? - maybe ten are left, possibly less. All the rest have been bankrupted by tax officials who refuse to believe their accounts. In some cases shopkeepers got demands for more than the entire value of their businesses.

The situation of the Palestinian Church is exacerbated by the racist attitudes of some so-called Christian Zionists who support the State of Israel. For example, Neil Cohen, former vicar of Christ Church, Jerusalem, said this in a recent public debate with me.

'Partnership of Jew and Arab is untenable in Israel... we live in an age of political correctness which claims we live in a world where all people have equal rights. I don't agree with that because I don't think it squares with the biblical record... the search for peace in the Middle East, laudable though it is, is a wild goose chase.'

Others such as Rob Richards claim Palestinians are 'aliens' in a State that belongs exclusively to the Jews.
"The alien has rights and we can remind Israel of this. Palestinians and Arabs who have made Israel their home come under that biblical word 'alien'."

This policy of apartheid or ethnic cleansing against Palestinians is implemented through a policy of Bantustanisation.

2. Bantustanisation
Bantustans were the creation of an apartheid white South Africa which attempted to give blacks in South Africa, limited autonomy in specified reservations, while denying them the right to live in exclusive white areas. Israel has been following this same strategy under the guise of the Oslo peace accords - giving Palestinians limited autonomy in places such as Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin and Jericho, while they have progressively occupied and settled the rest of the West Bank in what Kenneth Cragg describes "the slow but sure Judaization" of Palestine.

For example in the last 10 years over 2000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the Occupied Territories making at least 13,000 Palestinians homeless. Since then the Israeli government has also planted 140 illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories appropriating 60% of the land. Local Christians often describe the West Bank like a piece of Swiss cheese - its full of holes made by new exclusive settler roads and security zones. The Christian community of Palestine has traditionally been localised in the cities and villages of Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Zebbabde and Nablus. The Palestinian Authority has recognised this and ensured that irrespective of whether Palestinian Christians remain a majority, they would continue to be led by a Christian mayor. It seems that the Israeli government has targeted many of these communities.

For example, there used to be a green hill on the edge of Bethlehem known as Abu Ghoneim - the Green Mountain which is part of the shepherd's fields. It used to look beautiful, now it is a construction site - part of the land grab to complete the ring of Israeli settlements around Jerusalem on Palestinian land. It is part of the territory occupied by Israel during the 1967 war, which the international community has repeatedly insisted must be returned to its Palestinian owners. The mountain was originally declared a green belt and contains several sites significant to Christians. Israel is building over 6,000 housing units exclusively for 25,000 more American and European Jewish settlers.

The massive settlement at Abu Ghoneim closes the circle of exclusively Jewish settlements around the north, east and south side of Palestinian Jerusalem changing the demographic character of the West Bank for ever.

Har Homa is destined to give the Jews a strategic fortress as part of the process of "Judaising" Jerusalem before the final status talks. It lays siege to the Christian Palestinian communities of Beit Sahour and Bethlehem. It eliminates their land reserves, isolates them from Jerusalem and cuts them off from the rest of the West Bank to the north. It threatens the very existence of these ancient Christian communities.

Speaking of the Abu Ghoneim -Har Home settlements, Daoud Kuttab, a Christian Palestinian journalist, insists this is "A calculated and premeditated process of changing the character and the demographic nature of the Holy City.' Only 13% of the land of East Jerusalem remains in Palestinian hands. The rest 87%, has been confiscated for further exclusive Jewish settlements, for by-pass roads or closed military areas. In the Old City of Jerusalem the situation is more acute, as it has been the policy of successive Israeli governments to insist that Jerusalem becomes their undivided and exclusive capital. Since 1990, the Ateret Cohanim which is training fundamentalist Jewish settlers to become priests for a future Jewish Temple on the Haram al-Sharif, has purchased by underhand means or simply occupied by force over 40 properties in the Muslim quarter as well as St John's Hospice in the Christian Quarter near the Holy Sepulchre. The funding for such purchases has come from the Israeli government.

Let me give you an illustration as to how this Bantustanisation impacts ordinary Christian families.
Bishara Awad is the Principal of Bethlehem Bible College. Bishara is a father figure, gracious, patient, yet this time, when we met recently, he was clearly distressed. The story he shared typifies the reasons why the Palestinian Christian community is haemorrhaging.

"Tony is a student of the College... He is a Christian. All his family are Christians. The family own a piece of land on the outskirts of Bethlehem which they bought in 1924. One day the family went to work on their land and found a bulldozer opening up a new road into their land near the edge of the Neve Daniel settlement. When they tried to stop the bulldozer, the Israeli settlers took Tony's brother to the police station. He was not released until he signed a document promising never to go back to his land again. This has naturally been very disturbing for the family. Its not strange for us because it is happening all the time. But this is something near to our hearts and to our students. It happened just two weeks ago. All we could do as a College is say a prayer right on the land. We prayed for peace, for justice. We prayed for the settlers, that the Lord would give them a soft heart, that they would not take someone else's land."

Speaking of the territory around Bethlehem, Bishara insisted,

"There is an Israeli agenda, a Zionist dream to take all this land and they don't want any Palestinian's on the land. So they do this in many ways, they do this in subtle ways. They will not allow any new housing projects for the Palestinians, and if we do try and build houses on our land they come and demolish them."

To assist their policy of apartheid and strategy of bantustanisation, the Israeli's conceal the presence of an indigenous Christian community.

3. Concealment

In peace time, the presence of tens of thousands of Western Christian tourists and pilgrims in the Holy Land at any one time has great potential for good. Ironically, for the most part, the Western Christian presence does great harm. That is because most Christians visiting the Holy Land follow a predetermined itinerary purposely designed by the Israeli Government Ministry of Tourism to bring them into contact with a Jewish Israel perpetuating a myth of how the Zionist dream is being fulfilled - a land without a people for a people without a land. There will invariably be visits to the Knesset, Yad Vashem, Masada, the Western Wall, the Dead Sea and Kibbutz's, etc, all under the watchful influence of a licensed Israeli guide, while ignoring or avoiding Palestinian Israel and the Occupied Territories as much as possible.

It is estimated that 99% of guides are Israeli's and only 1% are Palestinian.
Most tour groups are oblivious of the fact that they will be passing through heavily armed checkpoints into what is still, under international law, illegally held "Occupied Territory" on the West Bank, in order to visit places such as Bethlehem, Nablus and Jericho. Even more significant, something like 95% of pilgrims who visit the Holy Land do not even meet any indigenous Christians who are 99% Palestinian.

As Bishop Kenneth Cragg, once said, "
Sharp moral issues are easily submerged by outsiders in archaeology or tourism, while the local Christianity is relegated to sentiment and the museum."

Largely cut off from personal or meaningful contact with Western tourists and pilgrims, the local Palestinian Christian community feels isolated, indeed invisible. One friend put it like this: "People who come here wear dark glasses. When the sun comes out they see nothing." Sometimes this "invisibility" is orchestrated by those whose interests lie in perpetuating the myth that there are no indigenous Christians present. Bishop Kenneth Cragg observes,

Local Christians are caught in a degree of museumization. They are aware of tourists who come in great volume from the West to savour holy places but who are, for the most part, blithely disinterested in the people who indwell them. The pain of the indifference is not eased insofar as the same tourism is subtly manipulated to make the case for the entire legitimacy of the statehood that regulates it.'

When the Israeli Ministry of Tourism does have to acknowledge the presence of indigenous Christians, according to Bishop Riah, they refer to them as "Greek Orthodox", "Russian Orthodox" "Roman Catholic" and "Anglicans"- terms which suggest Christianity is a Western religion - and that local Christians are remnants of European civilisation rather than something both ancient and indigenous. Riah insists, 'None of the Greek Orthodox are of Greek background, the Anglicans, none of them is of English background, we are all Arab Palestinians.' Much of the isolation Palestinians experience is also due to the misrepresentation and propaganda directed against them. This brings us to our fourth pressure.

4. Distortion
Palestinians are deeply upset at their image as often portrayed in the West. They believe there is much blatant misrepresentation which extends not only to Palestinians as a people and to the designation of their home land but also as an ancient Christian community. They are convinced that the impression given to pilgrims exploits Orientalist prejudices and polarises ethnic and cultural differences, while "magnifying the achievements of modern Israel" in a land "empty for 2000 years", Palestinians feel they are always portrayed as "troublemakers" or "terrorists". Bishop Riah claims the intention is to make pilgrims feel unsafe and insecure in their presence. He frequently hears guides say "We are coming now to Nazareth, watch for your wallets, or stick together." One young Christian student put it like this,

'Look at me. Do I look to you like a monster? A lion? Did I bite you? You are a visitor to my house. I respect you. I don't think there is any problem with pilgrims visiting Arab villages or Arab places. We are not demons.'

This kind of ignorance is common among Western visitors and even perpetuated in some guide books. Donald Bridge's, 'Travelling through the Promised Land' is one example.

The Jewish Quarter basked in golden sunshine... Take a few steps out of the Jewish into the Arab Quarter and the contrast is dramatic. It is more colourful, more noisy, more crowded, more dirty. The sounds and smells are totally different. The (to us) alien chant, part moan, part yell, part gargle echoes hauntingly from a dozen minarets... Arab head-dresses splash the heaving crowds with black and white or red check, and about one in every fifteen looks uncomfortably like Yasser Arafat."

Imagine the cry of anti-Semitism if Bridger had actually written, "...uncomfortably like Menachem Begin," or "Yitshak Shamir"." Very often it is only when pilgrims return to the Holy Land, or when they choose to leave the well worn pilgrimage path, that they even discover the existence of an indigenous Palestinian Christian community.

"When tourists come on their own a second time, they say "we didn't see that, we didn't know about that, how come?" I said "If you come like sheep you left like sheep."

This ignorance extends to a lack of understanding and sensitivity about the history of the church in the Holy Land. Several Palestinians described to me the amazement and embarrassment they feel when asked about when they had "converted" to Christianity.

"I was often asked "when did you convert to Christianity?". I was amazed at this question. My family were Christian before the United States was born. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem not in New York or England. They think Arab = Moslem. They think that we converted to Christianity but we were Christians here from the first Pentecost."

The principal means by which Palestinians have coped with the trauma of apartheid, bantustanisation, concealment and distortion is emigration.

5. Emigration

The vast majority of Palestinian Christians now live abroad in exile. Dalrymple estimates that whereas only 170,000 remain in Israel and Palestine, some 400,000 live either as refugees in places such as Lebanon and Jordan, or have emigrated to the West. They form just a small part of the 3.5 million Palestinian refugees currently registered with the UN living in camps around the Middle East denied the right to return to their homes in pre 1948 Israel or the pre 1967 borders of the Occupied Territories. According to the UN some 25% of all refugees in the world today are Palestinian. Dalrymple estimates though that the emigration rate of Palestinian Christians is twice that of Muslims, simply because they tend to be better educated, receive sympathetic treatment from Western governments or have relatives already living in the West.

Moslem Palestinians are more likely to have family connections in other parts of the Middle East, whereas Christian Palestinians are encouraged by Israel to emigrate to America, Canada or Australia, where they have historically received a sympathetic reception.

Consequently the new diaspora of Palestinian Christians who have integrated into Western society act as a magnet for others seeking a more secure future than possible under Israeli military occupation.

A study undertaken recently by Bethlehem University revealed that a further 20% of Palestinian Christians plan to emigrate in the near future. Emigration is, according to many, entirely a consequence of the antagonistic and repressive actions of the Israeli authorities. The bombing and then occupation of the Christian villages of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour have merely increased that flow.
It is also the systematic policy of the Israeli government to remove the residence permits of Jerusalemite Palestinians when ever possible. It has become a one way revolving door that allows them out but denies them re-entry. Israel achieves this depopulation of East Jerusalem by denying or removing the residence permits of Palestinians forced to work in other parts of the West Bank or who leave temporarily to study, visit family members or marry abroad. Bishara Awad explains how this has happened to some of his staff at Bethlehem Bible College.

"Two of our teachers at the College are from Jerusalem. They were born in Jerusalem. Their parents and grandparents are from Jerusalem for many, many, generations. They are Jerusalemites. They went to study abroad, one of them, Raheb, married a Spanish girl and he tried to get a family reunion for years and years. His wife is living in Spain. They have been separated for a year. He still does not have his papers. He cannot renew his ID for Jerusalem and return to live there. He cannot get permission for his wife to join him either. Another member of our faculty, Hanna, is just back from studying at a seminary in the United States. He is engaged to get married so when he came back to renew his Jerusalem ID card. they said they could not renew it. He asked why. They said, "Because you have relatives in Australia." He is engaged to be married but Hanna said, "If they don't give me my ID card I cannot get permission for my wife to join me. I cannot register my marriage. I can hardly do anything legally." There is no legitimate legal reason for the Israelis to do this. Raheb and Hanna still work for the College but I fear they will eventually give up and leave their land and go and live with their wives abroad. This is exactly what they Israelis want."

Unfortunately Raheb and Hannah are just two of the 13,000 husbands and wives or parents and children living apart, separated by this illegal Israeli occupation. The Israeli strategy is to coerce people to leave East Jerusalem and join their partners abroad.
One journalist from Jaffa said,

It's like living in jail here. We want to feel free. Many people like my brother therefore emigrated to Canada to be free. 80% of the Christians have left Israel to go to places like Canada and the United States.

According to Middle East Newsline, Jordanian officials admit that nearly 200,000 Palestinians entered the Hashemite kingdom from the West Bank in the last eight months of this year and many have not returned. They said Palestinians have been seeking long-term visas to remain indefinitely in the kingdom, and represent much of the elite of Palestinian society.

In 1971, Archbishop George Khodr of Beruit made this ominous prediction.
According to our knowledge, after four more decades of the rhythm of evacuation, no Christians will be left in Jerusalem. The result will be that the Holy Places will remain without the presence of the people. It will be an assemblage of churches.... viewed in that land as a pre-Israeli relic... It will be like visiting Baalbec when you see the Temples of Bacchus and Jupiter and then without any emotion except the aesthetic emotion... Some religious influences will be left, some nuns... and highly qualified professors of theology, and archaeologists from the Protestant world who will serve as natural guides for tourists.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey similarly estimates that Palestine will be devoid of indigenous Christians by around the year 2015, leaving behind just a religious 'Theme Park' like Disneyworld. Said Aburish, the Moslem writer also laments,

Oh, there will be a Christian presence in the Holy Land; this is not the point really. The issue is what kind of presence, how big, small, integrated, local or foreign it will be. Having a single church is a Christian presence, but is it acceptable? (Aburish, 1993:61).

Kenneth Cragg insists we should not leave the responsibility of rectifying such a situation to the Israeli authorities, since they are only concerned with maintaining access to shrines, exploiting Western Christian tourism and bringing in "lucrative foreign exchange". The absence of Palestinian Christians simply makes the realisation of this objective less complicated. Cragg insists, "If Christian minorities suffer... it is no more than unfortunate. The Christian museum will be in safe hands." (Cragg, 1982:111)

It seems the strategy of the Israeli government, whether by carrot or stick, is to encourage Palestinian Christians to leave their homeland and emigrate to the West so that Israel can exploit the myth that the real enemy to both Israel and the West is Islam.
Five pressures facing the Palestinian community. Apartheid, Bantustanisation, Concealment, Dispossession, and Emigration.

Do Palestinian have a future in the Holy Land? Humanly speaking that is up to us. They will only have a future if their basic human rights are recognised and protected; only if Western governments apply the kind of sanctions used against Serbia against Israel; only if Christians, Muslims and Jews in the West show them solidarity not because of their religion but because of their common humanity. Garth Hewitt had hoped to be with us for this conference. He is sadly unable to do so because of illness. Garth has written many songs about the plight of the Palestinians. One of those songs is called "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem".It is based on a sentence from the Jewish Talmud. The chorus is a prayer: I would like to conclude with it.

May the justice of God fall down like fire and bring a home for the Palestinian. May the mercy of God pour down like rain and protect the Jewish people. And may the beautiful eyes of a Holy God who weeps for His children Bring the healing hope for His wounded ones. For the Jew and the Palestinian.