Sitrep: Christmas Eve 2003
Vol: 27 Issue: 24 Wednesday, December 24, 2003
The Palestinian Authority is scrambling to explain the mass exodus of Christian Palestinians from Bethlehem as the result of Israeli occupation, but this time, even the most liberal media is having a hard time giving this story ‘legs’.
The best the BBC could do was to explain that ‘Christians are generally better educated and more prosperous than their Muslim neigbors’ suggesting they have better employment opportunities abroad.
Another possibility, suggests the Beeb helpfully, is that; “Many lose hope because of the continuing violence and the breakdown of the peace process. No one wants to bring up their children in an atmosphere of daily insecurity.”
Then of course, a single throwaway line containing the tiniest whiff of the truth, with the Beeb is careful to dispel in the same line.
“The rise of Islamic militancy is also a factor, though one that is hotly debated.” Hotly debated by whom?
In 1948, Christian Palestinians were a majority in the town of Jesus’ Birth, making up almost 70% of the city’s population. Today, that number has dwindled to less than one-third and is plummeting.
While the anti-Israel press blames Israel, in territories administered by the Palestinian Authority, where 50,000 Christians live, a draft constitution names Islam as the official religion. Could that be a reason? Certainly not, claim the PA’s apologists.
In another decade or so, given present trends, there will be few if any Christians living in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. The same is true of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, and even of Jerusalem, where nearly 600 historic churches still stand.
Christians in the Palestinian territories have dropped from 15 percent of the Arab population in 1950 to just 2 percent today. Both Bethlehem and Nazareth, which had been overwhelmingly Christian towns, now have strong Muslim majorities.
Today three-fourths of all Bethlehem Christians live abroad, and more Jerusalem Christians live in Sydney, Australia, than in the place of their birth.
Christians now comprise just 2.5 percent of Jerusalem, although those remaining still include a few born in the Old City when Christians there still constituted a majority.
In his recent book, “The Body and the Blood: The Holy Land’s Christians at the Turn of the Century,” Charles Sennott reports on one Christian community after another that is “perilously close to extinction.”
“In one Jerusalem parish there were not enough young Christian men left to carry a casket at a funeral In the sanctuary of an Upper Egypt monastery, Christians cowered in fear of violence from Islamic militants and systematic human rights violations by Egypt’s police state. In Lebanon the empty halls of once-grand Maronite Christian monasteries echoed a long-distant past crumbling and disappearing in the aftermath of a devastating civil war In all these places I found the Christian community withering, as daily life grew steadily more difficult.”
If the exodus is the result of harsh Israeli policies, then why are only Christians fleeing the Holy Land? There are several reasons, all of which are being revised faster than you can set the spin cycle to ‘fluff’.
Since 1975 Arafat has tried to erase the historic Jesus by depicting Him as the first radical Palestinian armed fedayeen (guerrilla).
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has adopted Islam as its official religion, used shari’a Islamic codes, and allowed even officially appointed clerics to brand Christians (and Jews) as infidels in their mosques.
The militantly Islamic rhetoric and terrorist acts of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah – all of which Arafat has tolerated and even encouraged – offer little comfort to Christians.
Since the December 1995 Palestinian takeover of Bethlehem, Arafat has placed the Church of the Nativity and other key Christian sites under his direct political supervision.
Palestinian converts to Christianity have been harassed, Christian cemeteries have been destroyed, monasteries have seen their phone lines cut and convents have been broken into.
The Times of London reported back in December 1997: “Life in (PA ruled) Bethlehem has become insufferable for many members of the dwindling Christian minorities. Increasing Muslim-Christian tensions have left some Christians reluctant to celebrate Christmas in the town at the heart of the story of Christ’s birth.”
In May 1999, Sheikh Yussef Salameh, the Palestinian Authority’s undersecretary for religious endowment, praised the idea that Christians should become ‘dhimmis’ (2nd class citizens) under Muslim rule, and such suggestions have become more common since the second intifada began in October 2000.
The grand mufti of Jerusalem, directly appointed by Arafat, has declared that there are no Jewish stones in Jerusalem and “not even the smallest indication of the existence of a Jewish temple on this place in the past.”
Ok, suppose for a second you were a Palestinian Christian living in the Holy Land, and it turns out that there was never a Jewish Temple?
Jesus chased the moneychangers out of — where? The grand mufti did not say. But the implications are clear — if you are Palestinian Christian practicing your faith, your existence is a constant reminder that there must have been a Temple somewhere.
But, to listen to the Beeb and other news outlets, Palestinian Christians — and only Palestinian Christians — are leaving Bethlehem in droves because they can get better jobs elsewhere. The population of Bethlehem itself isn’t shrinking — Palestinian Muslims are quickly moved in to take the places of the fleeing Christians.
The spin from the anti-warriors is that the West is waging an unfair war against Islam, a ‘religion of peace’, that allegedly has respect for what they call the “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews) and that only a tiny handful of Muslims are actually conducting a religious war against the West.
Christians in Saudi Arabia are routinely arrested for having Bibles or holding private, in-house worship services. There are NO Jews in that country.
Christians are fleeing traditional Middle East strongholds like Lebanon, where they are now a minority, and Egypt’s famous Christian Antioch community has dwindled from 15,000 a few years ago to a handful today.
Arab Christians who believe the Bible are faced with accepting a Palestinian militant feyadeen version of Jesus Who never drove Jews out of the Temple, (since there were never any Jews in ‘Palestine’), converting to Islam, or fleeing to other countries not under Arafat’s benevolent protection of the Holy Sites of the ‘three great religions’ — since there is evidently only one. Judaism and Christianity cannot exist, if modern Islamic tradition is true. So much for the ‘People of the Book’.
Thanks to Arafat’s benevolent protection of the Holy Places of the Holy Land, there will be about 200 tourists in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, 2003, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands of Christians who made the pilgrimage in years past, under Israel’s ‘brutal’ occupation.
And most of the world is eager to hand Arafat his own state, saying it is the only path to ‘peace’ in the Middle East.
America’s Christmas, 2003, will be spent under the shadow of an impending terrorist attack that is being billed as greater than that of September 11.
Muslims in America are banding together to create an ‘Anybody But Bush’ voting bloc, already being courted by presidential hopefuls like John Kerry and Howard Dean.
“I want to earn the support of Muslims and Muslim leaders across the United States,” Sen. John Kerry told a recent gathering at the Muslim Public Affairs Council annual convention. Howard Dean told the same conference that; “I very much hope for your support.”
“Today I go to mosques and many people tell me they’ll vote for ABB — anybody but Bush,” said Hossam Ayloush, head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in southern California.
President Bush has continued to court the Islamic vote in America by promising to give Arafat permanent control, through the offer of statehood, to the holiest places of both Christians and Jews, in return for a transparently dishonest promise those sites will be ‘protected’ for adherents to all three faiths.
In the natural, none of this makes any sense. But, we are in the last days foretold by the prophets — so there is no ‘natural’ sense to be had. This is a supernatural conflict, now openly waged in the natural world.
Paul wrote that, ‘in the last days, perilous times shall come.’ (2 Timothy 3:1)
Jesus said, “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” (John 16:2)
Zechariah wrote; “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” (Zechariah 12:2-3)
After outlining the signs of His coming and the end of the Church Age, Jesus concluded; “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)
So, the situation report for Christmas Eve, 2003, seems, in the natural, to be as dismal as any in living memory. But not for Christians — which is of itself, proof events ongoing are supernatural.
Some Christmas message! It sounds like gloom and doom and misery. Not to us that are saved.
Instead, it is undeniable evidence that the Lord remains on His Throne, intimately involved in the affairs of men. What looks like chaos to the world is proof to the Christian that all is firmly under God’s control.
We are eyewitnesses to the fulfillment of promises outlined by God, thousands of years in advance, to reassure us that no promise of Scripture will go unfulfilled.
Including His promise to return for His Church.
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (Romans 13:11)