Christians starving in the Holy Land
The situation is far worse than I have reported: There are still some middle-class Christian families in the Bethlehem area including some shop owners and craftsmen. But there are not enough to support the poor and elderly, especially those without family to help them.
The situation is bad and has grown worse during the decades that I have ministered to the remaining Christians of the “West Bank.”
In April of 2005 I wrote a report on a mission to Israel and the West Bank to supporters, and in that report I wrote about some of my work there:
Christians in the Bethlehem – Beit Jala area are being offered up to double the value of their homes by Muslim buyers. Saudi Arabia and other Islamic nations furnish the money because they want to make sure every Christian leaves.
Christian families dating back to the time of Christ are being forced to move because they simply have no work. Beit Jala, which was 100% Christian in 1995, was ordered by the Palestinian Authority to add three Muslim city council members. Bethlehem, which was 80% Christian at the time of the 1948 war that divided the land, is now only 20% Christian. As the Christian population declines the repression becomes
Compare what I wrote in 2005 to this December 2022 article in the Times of London titled “In Bethlehem, the Christian population is shrinking and afraid”.
The city’s Christian population has dropped from 84 per cent of the total a century ago to about 20 per cent today, and is falling further in the face of discrimination and threats from elements of the Muslim majority.
“There is a campaign to buy Christian homes and businesses and on Friday you will hear the sheikh on the loudspeakers from the mosques speaking against Jews and Christians … it’s hatred you hear in their prayers,” one Christian leader told The Times on condition of anonymity.
“They are pushing us out. You live among a people who doesn’t want you,” he added. “Christians are afraid and if they have the chance to leave, they do.”
My reporting in 2005 is virtually the same as the Times of London in December 2022. Sadly this honest reporting was published in London, UK and not in the United States.
Bethlehem situation is getting worse: There are virtually no social service programs under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. What services do exist are run by Muslims who somehow manage to live in large homes on the hillsides. Poor and disabled Christians must rely on NGO’s or what little the churches can still do.
The huge churches that dotted the predominantly Christian towns of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour are now for the most part tourist attractions. With the tiny congregations that still exist, the churches depend on offerings from tourists.
All of the larger traditional Orthodox and Catholic churches have schools, but now more than half of the students are Muslims. Without the paying Muslim students, the schools would be forced to close. The Muslim students are not converts to Christianity. Their Muslim parents paid for them to go to Christian schools because the level of education is better.
Because of the number of Muslims in the Christian schools our Christmas programs cannot be held in them, we must use church halls or rent facilities.
The wealthy Christians have moved to Crete, Greece, Europe and Chile. The remaining “middle class” struggle with average incomes of less than $500 a month. (In the Times of London article the average pay was stated as $300 a month.)
Bethlehem Food program: Ahlam is a 63 year old Christian widow living in Beit Sahour. Ahlam means “Dreams” in Arabic, but her life is far from living a dream. Ahlam has recently become a widow. She has a mentally handicapped 40-year-old daughter living with her. Ahlam told our staff member “I suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes and there is no main source of income.”
Ahlam said “This food package covers the food needs of the family, so we thank the organization supporting us with this package every month. I pray that your generosity is blessed and expanded always”. Ahlam is one of several elderly or disabled helped each month with food.
Bethlehem Diaper Program: Linda is one of many special needs elderly who receive adult diapers from our Heart for the Persecuted Church program.
Linda is a 69 year old Christian woman living in Beit Sahour the village next to Bethlehem. She is in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s Disease. Her condition leaves her totally unable to care for herself.
She is a single woman, and having never married she has no adult children to help in her care. There are no programs such as Medicare in the West Bank and without family members she is totally dependent on
The group home Linda is in provides basic care but cannot afford diapers for those living there. As Linda cannot walk, diapers are essential to her. Our Heart for the Persecuted Church program supplies her with diapers monthly.
The programs we have in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala are small compared to the need of impoverished and increasingly harassed Christians. The Religious Freedom Coalition assists only Christians in Palestinian Authority controlled areas.
We are unable to share pictures of the individuals we help on our website due to Palestinian Authority rules. Please join our email list to see images we are unable to share here.
William J. Murray, President
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