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60 Minutes on the Plight of Palestinian Christians

I have a proposal at the end of this blog. I hope some of you will take me up on it!

Even I am curious about why Israel and Palestine are appearing in my blog posts to such an extent lately! I guess we can say it’s because they keep coming to the forefront of world events!

If you missed the segment about Palestinian Christians done by Bob Simon on

60 Minutes

60 Minutes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

60 Minutes, last night, here it is, within an article about it in “The Atlantic“. Click on the video to watch it.

60 Minutes on the Plight of Palestinian Christians – Robert Wright – International – The Atlantic.

I’ve said that you can only learn the truth about what is going on in the West Bank by going to Palestine and hearing from the people there, but this is almost as good!

I’m also adding a link to, “Tent of Nations”, a Christian farming enterprise in Palestine, surrounded by three settlements. I’ve wanted to give you their perspective for quite some time.


What do I hope to accomplish with my blog posts?

One small, but realistic goal is that Christians in the United States who visit Israel might do a simple thing. When you tour Israel, let your tour guides know that you want to attend an Evangelical or Orthodox Church in Bethlehem, the West Bank, on Sunday morning. Be persistent. Some guides discourage these visits.

These visits will encourage the “Living Stones”, Christians who remain in the Holy Land, and present an opportunity to learn directly from them. It seems like a small thing for a visiting Christian to do.

I will publish a list of churches in Bethlehem (a short drive from Jerusalem) soon.

We Christians are exhorted in our Holy Book to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!”

If we haven’t already been doing this, it’s a good time to begin.  Peace is not within reach anytime soon, but at least, long established misconceptions are being uncovered.

Practicing Peace

The word, “Peace”, seems to irritate some Christians. They want to qualify it in “spiritual” terms, not “Hippie” peace and love…Secular terms…How many times have I seen the bumper sticker, “Know Jesus, Know Peace. No Jesus, No Peace”
Peace! I get that, I really do. I’m thankful for a peaceful heart and relationship with my creator and it has grown as I’ve matured in my faith.
But, many church people I know squash talk of peace with a knowing shake of their heads and a quote from a well-known passage in the Old Testament, though out of context:
“Peace, Peace, and there is no Peace”,  in context, it referred to false prophets who soothed Israel in ancient times, telling the Jews that everything would be okay, when it wasn’t.  In other words, Liars.
I understand where they’re coming from when Evangelicals do this. We believe and experience that Christ brings peace to our hearts through His forgiveness and love.
So it’s frustrating and painful to watch people struggle towards peace outside of that transforming faith and love, when we know darn well that nothing short of a “miracle” will bring it. So, Christians/Evangelicals just don’t think it’s “worth the trouble”. Why bother?
Here’s where I disagree.
Jesus said in His sermon on the mountain, “Happy are those who work for peace for God will call them his children”.  I think He was serious about wanting people’s hearts to have a peaceful transformation leading to peace.  If we’re not out there mixing with people who aren’t peaceful, how on earth can this transformation take place?  I guess you could say, I expect God to show up in the midst of the process, in unexpected ways!
My experience in Evangelical Churches in the USA where I live and worship is that people often respond negatively to good news coming out of the Arab World. I’m told frankly that it is because of the church’s “Biblical” foundations which they feel excludes the Arab world from…? The Peace Process?
However, there are a growing number of followers of Christ around the world who, despite criticism from devout believers, are working to break down barriers to peace in the Holy Land, hoping to exclude neither Jew, Palestinian, nor Christian from the process.  I like to count myself among that number.

The “Christ at the Check Point” Conference,  http://christatthecheckpoint.com/ , in Bethlehem is one place where all of us come together to learn from Palestinian believers how it is done.

Read this article by Munther Isaac, Academic Dean of Bethlehem Bible College to learn more.

How Evangelicals Are Learning to Be Pro-Palestine, Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Pro-Justice and Always Pro-Jesus
by Munther Isaac

Many evangelicals, who were discouraged by the failed prophecies and the “mood of doom” that dominated the evangelical church in the second half of the 20th century, are rediscovering that the gospel also speaks powerfully to issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation. Books about the end times, such as those written by Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsey, no longer dominate the bookshops, and people are being challenged by writings that focuses on the here and now, instead of the there and then!

In particular, the evangelical church typically has looked at the Middle East through the eyes of prophecy, leaning towards an unconditional support for Israel. Evangelicals in the West cheered the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent wars, believing them to be signs of the second coming of Christ—all the while neglecting the impact these events had on real people in the Middle East, specifically on Palestinians, and especially on the Palestinian Church.

The irony for Palestinian Christians is that evangelicals, with their over-emphasis on prophecy, have lost the capacity of being prophetic!

In many cases, when Palestinian Christians (or those who are sympathetic to them) share their take on things, they are demonized, ridiculed, and even accused of being anti-Semitic. The mere presence and voice of Palestinian Christians presents a dilemma for many Christian Zionists, who prefer a simple black-and-white perspective. But over the years, Palestinian Christians have challenged the Western church to consider what it means to be the church. They have reminded them of the importance of justice and peacemaking. If our theology produces apathy to injustice, it must be re-examined. In the words of Carl Medearis, “If your end-times theology trumps the clear commands in Scripture to love neighbors and enemies, then it is time to rethink your theology.”

Many who come to visit the “Holy Land” are troubled by the situation of Palestinians, and are beginning to ask questions about the occupation and the injustices that Palestinians are facing on a daily basis.
Facts do not lie. There is still the problem of about 5 million refugees, of whom about 1.8 million still live in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and the surrounding Arab countries. The 700 kilometer-long (435 mile) separation wall continues to affect the lives of Palestinians, leaving thousands living in isolated ghettos. The building of this wall has been judged illegal by the International Court of Justice.

The building of settlements continues to complicate matters for Palestinians and remains one of the biggest obstacles to peace. Though Palestinians and Israelis share the same water resources, per capita use in Israel is three and a half times higher than in the West Bank, due to water restrictions placed on Palestine by Israel. The Israeli military occupation is the longest occupation in modern history. Any visitor to the Palestinian areas cannot escape these realities. Checkpoints, the wall, refugee camps, land confiscations, and lack of water define the reality of Palestinians.

More and more evangelicals are paying attention to the Palestinian Church and its testimony and ministry in the midst of the conflict; the writings of Elias Chacour, Naim Ateek, Mitri Raheb, and Alex Awad are good examples, along with the nonviolent peace activities and advocacy by Palestinian Christian organizations. There are also the writings of many Western evangelicals who are sympathetic to Palestinians, and new documentaries that offer a different perspective, such as With God on Our Side and Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.

Then there is the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference, in and of itself a big example of this change. Among the confirmed speakers for 2012 are ESA’s Ron Sider and Paul Alexander, John Ortberg, Lynne Hybels, Shane Clainborne, Tony Campolo, Samuel Rodriguez, Sang Bok David Kim, and many more.
In addition to the international speakers, local Palestinian and Messianic Jewish leaders will share their own experiences and offer diverse perspectives. Participants will meet Palestinian Christians, and be able to listen and see first-hand the realities on the ground, as seen through the eyes of the people.

Lynne Hybels, co-founder of the Willow Creek Church with her husband Bill, has described her discovery of the church in Palestine. She concluded after many journeys, “I am still pro-Israel, but I’ve also become pro-Palestine, pro-peace, and pro-justice and pro-equality for Jews and Arabs living as neighbors in the Holy Land. And the bottom line is always: pro-Jesus!”

If more Christians go to Bethlehem in 2012 and leave with the same attitude, we can start looking at this part of the world with hope, in a time when it is desperately needed.

Munther Isaac is the Vice Academic Dean at Bethlehem Bible College and a PhD candidate at the Oxford Center for Mission Studies. He is also the director of the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference. Learn more about the event.

Despised and Rejected, Brother Palestinians

The Walls of Old City of Jerusalem
The Walls of Jerusalem

Approaching the walled city of old Jerusalem is an experience like none other.  Great armies have marched on these same walls, many with great fear, never to return.

A friend told me that word on the Christian “grapevine”  was that the Muslims in Palestine were planning to hold a “march” to pray against Jerusalem/Israel. The response was for Christians in the West to form prayer groups to” protect” Israel.

I hadn’t heard about this, so I checked it out. It’s all about “perspective”.

Sure enough, the “demonstrations” are the yearly remembrance of the “Nakba” or  “Catastrophe”, when hundreds of thousands of Muslim and Christian Palestinians remember their forcible removal from their homes and their land when Palestine was “occupied” by Israel in 1948.

I support peace and resonable security for Israel, and violence from either side is a tragedy. I also support resonable living conditions for the Palestinians;  Palestinian Christians and Muslims, and even some Jews are opposed to Israel’s political policies. There are many unjust laws and practices.

This automatically puts me at odds with many in the Evangelical church here in the West.  It is odd to me that  followers of Jesus seem to be the least open to hearing about the suffering of the Palestinians. I’ve even heard of one Christian leader who goes so far as to doubt the salvation of anyone who doesn’t fully “support” Israel. He must have no idea that the church in Palestine is alive and well, and certainly not supportive of Israel’s repressive regime.

In the meantime, Palestinian Christians feel abandoned by Western Christians because of their support for policies that favor Israel, allowing the occupation to continue and land to be confiscated  for the building of settlements.

I’d like to propose that there are no Christians on the face of this earth who are more despised and rejected(and ignored) by the Western church than are the Palestinian Christians.

This year, I’ve been studying the Book of Isaiah in our Bible. Towards the end, the Prophet Isaiah writes that  “people from every tribe and nation will someday worship in Jerusalem”. It seems to make sense to open our hearts to every tribe and nation now in preparation for this time.

Who are we, only human after all, to judge that one tribe or nation is not ‘worthy’ of God’s friendship?

Here’s a bit of news about what happened at a recent demonstration:


A Palestinian for Peace on FOX News


Sami Awad is the Executive Director of Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem and a leading Palestinian advocate for non-violence. I’ve met Sami just once, but am very familiar with his work and admire what I know about him.

 I’m very happy that FOX News did this interview with him, because he is a Palestinian Christian who counts Palestinian Muslims among his best friends. The balanced message he brings is important for all Americans to hear.

O Little Town of Bethlehem. The Film:  http://littletownofbethlehem.org/

Children of Gaza Part II

Second in the Series:

I am often asked the question, “Why don’t you tell the other side (meaning Israel’s)?”  “Do you only care about the Palestinian people and not the Jewish people?”

Those are great questions.

It’s because I care about the Jewish people that I believe it is in their best interest to stop their 60 plus year conflict with the Palestinians.

I grew up in the Western Church where Jews are still referred to as “God’s Chosen People“, as in the Old Testament; where every action of the Israeli Government is considered a victory for God.

The only information I had to identify Palestinians was: “Terrorists”.

This terrible generalization is why I bend over backwards to correct mis-information that continues to this day:

That Palestinians are only ‘Terrorists’ and the Israeli Government is always on “God’s side” so whatever they do is “sanctioned” by the Western Church, even when it is in direct conflict with Jesus’ own words.

I’m not an expert on Palestine or Islam, but I am a student of culture and faith.

One thing I can do is serve as a Culture broker/translator of cultures, because I “get” ours/and I’m learning theirs to some extent after years of prayerful study, travel and meeting people in the Muslim world, specifically Palestinians.

Here are eight things I’ve learned about Israel/Palestine from the source. Where I err, please correct me, dear friends!

1. Palestinian Christians* and Muslims live side by side in Gaza, in an uneasy alliance.

2. Palestinians have two rival Parties; Fatah, in the West Bank; and Hamas in Gaza. Hamas was elected because of the extreme pressure the Palestinians felt under Israeli Occupation. Fatah is not considered a terrorist organization by the West, while Hamas is.

3. Regular Palestinian people just want to live in peace with freedom.

4. “Freedom” for most Palestinians means: 1.Freedom from Israeli occupation; 2.A two State Solution; 3.Compromise with Israel returning to the 1967  Green Line Border agreement(UN Resolution 242)*They do NOT hope to drive Israel into the sea as Hamas has stated (and indeed Israel wants the Palestinians off their land also).

5. With continued conflict, the Israelis and Palestinians are causing the hearts of another generation to harden and be overcome with hatred.

6. Only the adults in Israel/Palestine can stop this horrible progression; but the West, and especially Christians in the West can have some role in influencing our US Foreign Policy towards Israel.

7. We can speak truth to power; not allowing injustice to prevail.

8. It is still important to Pray for Peace in Jerusalem!

*For more information on Christians in Palestine see below:



*For more information on UN Security Council Resolution 242:


Sarah Palin Visits Israel but ‘Misses the Point’

Holy Land Trust Office, Bethlehem

There are not many world organizations that I can support with confidence.

Holy Land Trust is an NGO based in Bethlehem, Palestine, working tirelessly for non-violent solutions to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

I know some of the people involved in leadership, affirm its mission, and have observed its work over several years.

Their website speaks for itself. I highly recommend that anyone, willing to challenge their ideas about the Middle East, Israel and Palestine, Jews, Christians and Muslims, look into Holy Land Trust.


We’ve heard that Sarah Palin visited Israel this week. Though she didn’t ask my advice, I’m really sorry she (an Evangelical) didn’t venture into Bethlehem/West Bank to visit Holy Land Trust (A partner with Bethlehem Bible College which is an Evangelical Institution). It would have been an excellent way for her to increase her understanding of the complexities of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Sadly, she may have been unaware of these Christians, whose very presence is mostly unknown by the Western Church.

In fact, whenever I mention these Palestinian Christians and the dilemma of peace in Palestine, more often than not, American Christians quote a verse from the Holy Bible back to me. The verse?

“‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace”, Jeremiah 6:14.

An example is the following article by Joseph Farah.


Do I reject the Bible? Absolutely not. I read it in context…and I understand that Jesus came to fulfill the Law of the Old Testament by miraculously providing the ‘Hope’ of Peace on earth.

A personal visit may not have changed Sarah Palin’s thinking, but she could have seen and heard the effect the conflict has on Palestinian Christians (her family in Christ) which would certainly have given her deeper insight into the nuances of world issues; which are seldom as black and white as many (most?) Americans seem to view them.

For me, who at first looked at the world as a Black and White thinker; Fearing Muslims, viewing Palestinians as “terrorists”; friendships with Jews, Muslims and Christian Palestinians, and a deep study of Faith and Justice in the Scripture were needed to give me a “paradigm change”; If I can change, it’s not too much to hope for other Christians.

Recently, Respected American Pastor John Piper addressed this very important issue:


Challenging Empire: God, Faithfulness and Resistance

YIM Participants (Sabeel)

Image by The Presbyterian Church in Canada via Flickr

The Arabic word, “Sabeel”, means, ‘the way’, or, a ‘channel’, a ‘spring of life-giving water’.

The Organization, ‘SABEEL’, was formed by Palestinian Christians to be a channel of peace to the Holy Land. It has become  an international peace movement attracting people from all traditions, young and old.

This week,  people of peace from all over the world gathered in Bethlehem, to discuss ways to bring peace and  justice to Israel/Palestine and international awareness to the West.

Here are some of the participants talking about their experience.