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Palestinian Christians

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Title: Palestinian Christians  
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Subject: Palestinians, Palestinian diaspora, Outline of the State of Palestine, Christianity by country, Musalaha
Collection: Arab Christians, Christian Groups in the Middle East, Christianity by Country, Palestinian Christians
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Palestinian Christians

Palestinian Christians are Arab 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 (a derivative of the Arabic word for Nazareth, al-Nasira) or Masihi (a derivative of Arabic word Masih, meaning "Messiah").[1] In Hebrew, they are called Notzri (also spelt Notsri), which means "Nazarene".

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.[2] 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.[3] The Palestinian Christian population greatly decreased from 1948 to 1967. 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.[4] 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.[5][6]

There are also a large number of Palestinian Christians in the diaspora who converted to Christianity after leaving for Christian-majority countries 1948.

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.


  • Demographics and denominations 1
  • History 2
    • Background and early history 2.1
    • Modern history 2.2
  • Historic denominations 3
  • Political and Ecumenical Issues 4
    • Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center: Sabeel 4.1
    • Kairos Palestine 4.2
    • Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation 4.3
    • Christians of Gaza 4.4
    • Christian emigration 4.5
    • Persecutions 4.6
  • Notable Palestinian Christians 5
    • Beatified 5.1
    • Monks 5.2
    • Clergymen 5.3
    • Palestinian Roman Catholics 5.4
    • Politicians 5.5
    • Cultural figures 5.6
    • Palestinian Christian militants 5.7
    • Palestinian businesspeople 5.8
    • Palestinian activists 5.9
    • Other 5.10
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Demographics and denominations

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.[7] Of the total Christian population of 154,000 in Israel, about 80% are Arabs, many of whom also self-identify as Palestinian.[7] The majority (56%) of Palestinian Christians live in the Palestinian diaspora.[8]

According to the CIA World Factbook, as of 2013, the population statistics on Palestinian and related Arab-Israeli Christians are as follows:[9][10][11]

Population group Christian population % Christian
West Bank* 214,000 8
Gaza Strip 12,000 0.7
Arab Christians in Israel** 123,000 10
Non-Arab Christians in Israel 29,000 0.4
Total Arab Christians 349,000 6.0
Total Christians (including non-Arabs) 378,000 3.0
* The figure includes Samaritans and other unspecified minorities.

**Arab Christians in Israel do not necessarily identify as Palestinian.

Around 50% of Palestinian Christians belong to the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, one of the 15 churches of Eastern Orthodoxy. This community has also been known as the Arab Orthodox Christians. There are also Maronites, Melkite-Eastern Catholics, Jacobites, Chaldeans, Roman Catholics (locally known as Latins), Syriac Catholics, Orthodox Copts, Catholic Copts, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Quakers (Friends Society), Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans (Episcopal), Lutherans, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Nazarene, Assemblies of God, Baptists and other Protestants; in addition to small groups of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and others.

The Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theófilos III, is the leader of the Palestinian and Jordanian Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, but Israel has refused to recognize his appointment.[12] If confirmed, he would replace Patriarch Irenaios (in office from 2001), whose status within the church became disputed after a term surrounded by controversy and scandal given that he sold Palestinian property to Israeli Orthodox Jews.[13] Archbishop Theodosios (Hanna) of Sebastia is the highest ranking Palestinian clergyman in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, is the leader of the Roman Catholics in Jerusalem, Palestine, Jordan, Israel and Cyprus. The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem is Suheil Dawani,[14] who replaced Bishop Riah Abou Al Assal. Elias Chacour, a Palestinian refugee, of the Melkite Eastern Catholic Church is Archbishop of Haifa, Acre and the Galilee. Bishop Dr. Munib Younan is the president of the Lutheran World Federation and the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).


Background and early history

The oldest surviving Christ Pantocrator icon, 6th century, Saint Catherine's Monastery.[15][16]
A late 11th century depiction of Christ.
The Jerusalem Cross.
Interior of the house of a Christian family in Jerusalem. By W. H. Bartlett, ca 1850

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.[17]

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).[18] 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.[18]

Soon after the Muslim conquests, the Melkites began abandoning Greek for Arabic, a process which made them the most Arabicised Christians in the Levant.[18]

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,[19] 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.

Modern history

Palestinian Christian Scouts on Christmas Eve in front of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem (2006).

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.[20]

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.[21]

Christians within the Palestinian Authority constituted around one in seventy-five residents.[22] 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.[7] 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.[23]

In a 2007 letter from Congressman [24][25]

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.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28] 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.[29]

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.[30]

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.[31] They highlighted improved access to places of worship and ending the taxation of church properties as key concerns.[31] 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.[7] 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".[32]

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.[33]

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. Fr. Gabriel Nadaf 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.[34] See also Christianity in Israel§Sons of the New Testament Party.

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.[35] [36]

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",[37] since Christian Arabs fared the best in terms of education in comparison to any other group receiving an education in Israel.[38] Christian Arabs have one of the highest rates of success in the matriculation examinations, (64%)[38] both in comparison to the Muslims and the Druze and in comparison to all students in the Jewish education system as a group.[38] Arab Christians were also the vanguard in terms of eligibility for higher education.[38] and they have attained a bachelor's degree and academic degree more than the median Israeli population.[38]

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.[37]

In September 2014, Israel's interior minister signed an order that the Aramean Christian minority in Israel could register as Arameans rather than Arabs.[39] The order will effect about 200 families.[39]

Historic denominations

The 1922 census of Palestine recorded over 200 localities with a Christian population.[40] The totals by denomination for all of Mandatory Palestine were: Greek Orthodox 33,369, Syriac Orthodox (Jacobite) 813, Roman Catholic 14,245, Greek Catholic (Melkite) 11,191, Syrian Catholic 323, Armenian Catholic 271, Maronite 2,382, Armenian Orthodox (Gregorian) 2,939, Coptic Church 297, Abyssinian Church 85, Church of England 4,553, Presbyterian Church 361, Protestants 826, Lutheran Church 437, Templars Community 724, others 208.[40]

Political and Ecumenical Issues

The mayors of Ramallah, Birzeit, Bethlehem, Zababdeh, Nazareth, 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. Some Christians were part of the affluent segments of Palestinian society that left the country during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In West Jerusalem, over 50% of Christian Palestinians lost their homes to the Israelis, according to the historian Sami Hadawi.[41]

Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center: Sabeel

The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center is a Christian non-governmental organization based in Jerusalem; was founded in 1990 as an outgrowth of a conference regarding "Palestinian Liberation Theology."[42] According to its web site, "Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, this liberation theology seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, to promote unity among them toward social action. Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on love, justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. The word "Sabeel" is Arabic for ‘the way‘ and also a ‘channel‘ or ‘spring‘ of life-giving water."[43]

Sabeel has been criticized for its belief that "Israel is solely culpable for the origin and continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,"[44] and for using "anti-Semitic deicide imagery against Israel, and of disparaging Judaism as 'tribal,' 'primitive,' and 'exclusionary,' in contrast to Christianity’s 'universalism' and 'inclusiveness.'"[44][45] In addition, Daniel Fink, writing on behalf of NGO Monitor, shows that Sabeel leader Naim Ateek has described Zionism as a “step backward in the development of Judaism,” and Zionists as “oppressors and war makers.”[46][47][48]

Kairos Palestine

In December 2009, prominent Palestinian Christian leaders released the Kairos Palestine Document, "A moment of truth." Among the authors of the document are Michel Sabah, former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Attalah Hanna, Father Jamal Khader, Rev. Mitri Raheb, Rev. Naim Ateek and Rifat Kassis who is the coordinator and chief spokesperson of the group.

The document declares the Israeli occupation of Palestine a "sin against God" and against humanity. It calls on churches and Christians all over the world to consider it and adopt it and to call for the boycott of Israel. Section 7 calls for “the beginning of a system of economic sanctions and boycott to be applied against Israel.” It states that isolation of Israel will cause pressure on Israel to abolish all of what it labels as "apartheid laws" that discriminate against Palestinians and non-Jews.[49]

Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation

The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) was founded in 1999 by an ecumenical group of American Christians to preserve the Christian presence in the Holy Land. HCEF stated goal is to attempt to continue the presence and well-being of Arab Christians in the Holy Land and to develop the bonds of solidarity between them and Christians elsewhere. HCEF offers material assistance to Palestinian Christians and to churches in the area. HCEF advocates for solidarity on the part of Western Christians with Christians in the Holy Land.[50][51][52]

Christians of Gaza

There are around 1,500 Christians in the Gaza Strip.[1] Gaza's Christian community mostly lives within the city, especially in areas neighbouring the three main churches: Church of Saint Porphyrius, The Holy Family Catholic Church in Zeitoun Street, and the Gaza Baptist Church, in addition to an Anglican chapel in the Al-Ahli Al-Arabi Arab Evangelical Hospital. Saint Porphyrius is an Orthodox Church that dates back to the 12th century. Gaza Baptist Church is the city’s only Evangelical Church; it lies close to the Legislative Council (parliamentary building). Christians in Gaza freely practice their religion. They also may observe all the religious holidays in accordance with the Christian calendars followed by their churches.[53]

Those among them working as civil servants in the government and in the private sector are given an official holiday during the week, which some devote to communal prayer in churches. Christians are permitted to obtain any job, in addition to having their full rights and duties as their Muslim counterparts in accordance with the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, the regime, and all the systems prevailing over the territories. Moreover, seats have been allocated to Christian citizens in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in accordance with a quota system that allocates based on a significant Christian presence.

A census revealed that 40 percent of the Christian community worked in the medical, educational, engineering and law sectors. Additionally, the churches in Gaza are renowned for the relief and educational services that they offer, and Muslim citizens participate in these services. Palestinian citizens as a whole benefit from these services. The Latin Patriarchate School, for example, offers relief in the form of medication and social and educational services. The school has been offering services for nearly 150 years.

In 1974, the idea of establishing a new school was proposed by Father Jalil Awad, a former parish priest in Gaza who recognized the need to expand the Latin Patriarchate School and build a new complex. In 2011, the Holy family school had 1,250 students and the Roman Catholic primary school, which is an extension of the Latin Patriarchate School, continues to enroll a rising number of young students. The primary school was established approximately 20 years ago. Aside from education, other services are offered to Muslims and Christians alike with no discrimination. Services include women’s groups, students' groups and youth groups, such as those offered at the Baptist Church on weekdays. As of 2013, only 113 out of 968 of these Christian schools students were in fact Christians. [2]

In October 2007, Rami Ayyad, the Baptist manager of The Teacher's Bookshop, the only Christian bookstore in the Gaza Strip, was murdered, following the firebombing of his bookstore and the receipt of death threats from Muslim extremists angry at what they viewed to be his missionary activity.[54][55]

Christian emigration

A pre-1948 celebration of the Feast of St. Elias, on Mount Carmel, on 20 July

In addition to neighboring countries, such as Lebanon and Jordan, many Palestinian Christians emigrated to countries in Latin America (notably Argentina and Chile), as well as to Australia, the United States and Canada. The Palestinian Authority is unable to keep exact tallies.[7] The share of Christians in the population has also decreased due to the fact that Muslim Palestinians generally have slightly higher birth rates than the Christians.[13][56]

The causes of this Christian exodus are hotly debated, with various possibilities put forth.[22] Many of the Palestinian Christians in the diaspora are those who fled or were expelled during the 1948 war and their descendants.[8] After discussion betweenYosef Weitz and Moshe Sharett, Ben-Gurion authorized a project for the transference of the Christian communities of the Galilee to Argentina, but the proposal failed in the face of Christian opposition.[57][58][59] Reuters has reported that the emigrants since then have left in pursuit of better living standards.[7]

The BBC has also blamed the economic decline in the Palestinian Authority as well as pressure from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the exodus.[56] A report on Bethlehem residents stated both Christians and Muslims wished to leave but the Christians possessed better contacts with people abroad and higher levels of education.[60] The Vatican and the Catholic Church blamed the Israeli occupation and the conflict in the Holy Land for the Christian exodus from the Holy Land and the Middle East in general.[61]

The Jerusalem Post (an Israeli newspaper) has stated that the "shrinking of the Palestinian Christian community in the Holy Land came as a direct result of its middle-class standards" and that Muslim pressure has not played a major role according to Christian residents themselves. It reported that the Christians have a public image of elitism and of class privilege as well as of non-violence and of open personalities, which leaves them more vulnerable to criminals than Muslims. Hanna Siniora, a prominent Christian Palestinian human rights activist, has attributed harassment against Christians to "little groups" of "hoodlums" rather than to the Hamas and Fatah governments.[22] In his last novel, the Palestinian Christian writer Emile Habibi has a character affirm that:-

"There is no difference between Christian and Muslim: we are all Palestinian in our predicament"[62]

According to a report in The Independent, thousands of Christian Palestinians "emigrated to Latin America in the 1920s, when Mandatory Palestine was hit by drought and a severe economic depression."[63]

Today, Chile houses the largest Palestinian Christian community in the world outside of the Levant. As many as 350,000 Palestinian Christians reside in Chile, most of whom came from Beit Jala, Bethlehem, and Beit Sahur.[64] Also, El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries have significant Palestinian Christian communities, some of whom immigrated almost a century ago during the time of Ottoman Palestine.[65] During the 2008 Gaza War, Palestinian Christians in Chile demonstrated against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. They were hoping to move the government into altering its relations with Israel.[66]

In a 2006 poll of Christians in Bethlehem by the Palestinian Centre for Research and Cultural Dialogue, 90% reported having Muslim friends, 73.3% agreed that the Palestinian Authority treats Christian heritage in the city with respect, and 78% attributed the ongoing exodus of Christians from Bethlehem to the Israeli occupation and travel restrictions on the area.[67] Daniel Rossing, the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs' chief liaison to Christians in the 1970s and 1980s, has stated that the situations for them in Gaza became much worse after the election of Hamas. He also stated that the Palestinian Authority, which counts on Christian westerners for financial support, treats the minority fairly. He blamed the Israeli West Bank barrier as the primary problem for the Christians.[22]

The United States State Department's 2006 report on religious freedom criticized both Israel for its restrictions on travel to Christian holy sites and the Palestinian Authority for its failure to stamp out anti-Christian crime. It also reported that the former gives preferential treatment in basic civic services to Jews and the latter does so to Muslims. The report stated that, generally, ordinary Muslim and Christian citizens enjoy good relations in contrast to the "strained" Jewish and non-Jewish relations.[13] A 2005 BBC report also described Muslim and Christian relations as "peaceful".[56]

The Arab Human Rights Association, an Arab NGO in Israel, has stated that Israeli authorities have denied Palestinian Christians in Israel access to holy places, prevented repairs needed to preserve historic holy sites, and carried out physical attacks on religious leaders.[68]


Christian clergymen are regularly spat on in Israel and churches and cemeteries are defaced by Jewish nationalists.[69][70][71][72] When the doors of the Latrun Trappist monastery were set aflame and the phrase "Jesus was a monkey" was painted on its walls, the Vatican reacted with a rare official complaint against the Israeli government's inaction.[73]

There has also been criticism to the claim that Israel is the only country that Christian communities have been able to thrive in the Middle East by Palestinian Christians, with such statements being called a "manipulation" of the facts.[74] Members of the Palestinian Christian community claim that such statements attempt to hide the discrimination that Palestinians face within Israel due to discriminatory laws as well as the effect of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza on the Christian population in these areas.[75]

The Palestinian Authority is encouraging a "sharp demographic shift" in Bethlehem, where the Christian population went from a 60 percent majority in 1990 to a 40 percent minority in 2000, to about 15 percent of the city's total population today. It is estimated that, for the past seven years, more than one thousand Christians have been emigrating from the Bethlehem area annually and that only 10,000 to 13,000 Christians remain in the city. International human rights lawyer Justus Reid Weiner, who teaches at Hebrew University, told the Jerusalem Institute for Global Jewish Affairs that, under the PA-Fatah regime, Christian Arabs have been victims of frequent human rights abuses by Muslims. "There are many examples of intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion," he said. PA officials are directly responsible for many of the attacks, and some Muslims who have converted to Christianity have been murdered.[76][77]

Notable Palestinian Christians


  • Blessed Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas — founder of the Congregation of the Rosary Sisters, the only Arab religious order in the Holy Land to date



Palestinian Roman Catholics


  • George H.W. Bush (1989-1991)
  • Joe Hockey - Australian politician in the House of Representatives.
  • Raymonda Tawil — poet, political activist, journalist, writer and the mother-in-law of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat[78]
  • Antonio Saca — President of El Salvador from 2004 to 2009
  • Justin Amash — a U.S. Representative for Michigan's 3rd congressional district which encompasses the Grand Rapids area, and a member of the Republican Party
  • Vera Baboun – the first female mayor of Bethlehem
  • Azmi Bishara — Arab-Israeli politician[22]
  • Janet Mikhail — the current mayor of Ramallah
  • Karim Khalaf — attorney and politician who served as the Mayor of Ramallah, but was removed from office in 1982 by Israel
  • Victor Batarseh — the former mayor of Bethlehem
  • Elias Bandak — the former mayor of Bethlehem
  • Hanna Nasser — the former mayor of Bethlehem
  • Elias Freij — the former mayor of Bethlehem
  • Emil Habibi — politician born in Mandatory Palestine, leader of the Israel Communist Party and Member of the Israeli Knesset
  • Ameer Makhoul — the founder of the Haifa-based Ittijah (the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, a network for Palestinian NGOs in Israel), who is currently jailed in Israel, after some claims for spying on behalf of Hezbollah.[79] Amnesty International expressed concern that "his human rights activism on behalf of Palestinians" may be the reason for his imprisonment.[80]
  • PFLP and the Arab Nationalist Movement[22]
  • Nayif Hawatmeh — Palestinian politician, founder and General Secretary of the DFLP[22]
  • Dr. Hanan Ashrawi — politician, legislator, activist, and scholar. Currently, she is a leader of the Third Way party.[22] She was previously notable as a spokesperson for Arafat.[23]
  • Afif Safieh — diplomat and currently Palestinian ambassador to the Russian Federation
  • Joudeh George Murqos — ex-Palestinian minister of tourism
  • Ghazi Hanania — member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and Fatah
  • Emil Ghuri — the former Secretary of the Arab Higher Committee (AHC), the official leadership of the Arabs in the British Mandate of Palestine. He was also the general secretary of the Palestine Arab Party
  • Hanna Nasser (academic) — academic, political figure and ex-president of Birzeit University
  • Ghassan Andoni — a professor of physics at Birzeit University, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and founder of the International Middle East Media Centre
  • Daud Turki — poet and was the leader of the Jewish-Arab left-wing group called the Red Front
  • Imil Jarjoui — former member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the PLO executive committee
  • Huwaida Arraf — rights activist and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)
  • Michael Tarazi — lawyer and former adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization
  • Kamal Nasser — PLO political leader, writer and poet
  • Daniel Abugattas – Peruvian Politician and businessman.

Cultural figures

  • Edward Said — Palestinian literary theorist, cultural critic, political activist
  • Rosemarie Said Zahlan — historian and writer
  • George Antonius — founder of modern Arab nationalist history
  • Khalil Beidas — scholar, educator, translator and novelist during the Al-Nahda cultural renaissance
  • Khalil al-Sakakini — educator, scholar, poet, and Arab nationalist during the Al-Nahda cultural renaissance
  • Tawfiq Canaan — physician, researcher of Palestinian popular heritage
  • May Ziade — poet, essayist and translator during the Al-Nahda cultural renaissance
  • Hanna Abu Hanna — poet, writer, political activist and educator
  • Anton Shammas — writer and translator
  • Elia Suleiman — Palestinian film maker and actor
  • Hanna Musleh — Palestinian film maker and university professor
  • Raja Shehadeh — lawyer and writer
  • Rifat Odeh Kassis — human rights activist
  • George Saliba — Professor of Arabic and Islamic Science at the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University, New York, United States
  • Rami George Khouri — journalist and editor
  • Hisham Zreiq — an award-winning independent film maker, poet and visual artist
  • Ray Hanania — Palestinian-American journalist also known for his stand-up comedy[81]
  • Joseph Massad — an Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University
  • Rim Banna — singer, composer, and arranger who is well known for her modern interpretations of traditional Palestinian folk songs
  • Amal Murkus — singer
  • Anton Shammas — an essayist, writer of fiction and poetry and translator
  • Fady Andraos — singer and actor
  • Karl Sabbagh — Palestinian-British writer, journalist and television producer
  • Sabri Jiryis — writer and lawyer
  • Leila Sansour — film director
  • Makram Khoury — actor
  • Clara Khoury — actress
  • Kamal Boullata — artist & writer. Boulatta is the author of several studies on Palestinian art in particular, Palestinian Art (Saqi 2009) and Between Exits: Paintings by Hani Zurob (Black Dog 2012).
  • Steve Sabella – artist

Palestinian Christian militants

Palestinian businesspeople

Palestinian activists


See also


  1. ^ Chad Fife Emmett (1995). Beyond the Basilica:Christians and Muslims in Nazareth. University of Chicago Press. p. 74.  
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Report to the League of Nations on Palestine and Transjordan, 1937". British Government. 1937. Retrieved 2013-07-14. 
  4. ^ Jewish Council for Public Affairs. "JCPA Background Paper on Palestinian Christians". Retrieved 2013-07-23. 
  5. ^ Chronicles - Volume 26. 2002. p. 7. 
  6. ^ The Palestinian Diaspora - Page 43, Helena Lindholm Schulz - 2005
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Further reading

  • Morris, Benny, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War, (2009) Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-15112-1
  • Reiter, Yitzhak, National Minority, Regional Majority: Palestinian Arabs Versus Jews in Israel (Syracuse Studies on Peace and Conflict Resolution), (2009) Syracuse Univ Press (Sd). ISBN 978-0-8156-3230-6

External links

  • Middle East Christians: Gaza pastor (Interview with Hanna Massad). BBC News. Published 21 December 2005.
  • Christians in the Middle East - 11 May 09 - Part 1 - Riz Khan on YouTube at Al Jazeera English
  • Christians in the Middle East - 11 May 09 - Part 2 - Riz Khan on YouTube at Al Jazeera English
  • Bethlehem University
  • "What is it like to be a Palestinian Christian?" at
  • Religion in the news - Israelis and Palestinians
  • Hard Time in the House of Bread
  • Al-Bushra (an Arab-American Catholic perspective)
  • Palestinian Christians: Challenges and Hopes by Bernard Sabella
  • Salt of the Earth: Palestinian Christians in the Northern West Bank, a documentary film series

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