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Thursday 19 October 2023

Christians Are Persecuted In Israel


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One of the most disturbing trends amongst Christians today is the misidentification of the people of God. The Bible has been consistent on this throughout every page: God’s people have always been those who believe in him, no matter their race[1] and those who do not believe in him are not his. As John the Baptist so eloquently says,

“7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (Matt. 3:7-9).

John is telling the Jewish religious leaders something important: it is who you have faith in and how you live which makes you people of God, not who you are descended from.[2] This theme is consistent throughout the Bible and never changes. As Paul tells us again and again it is those who have faith, who do not trust in the flesh, who are children of God. God’s people have faith in him and in the New Testament in Jesus Christ, his Son, and those who are not of God reject him and reject his Son.

So, knowing this, we have to say that the only times that God’s people are attacked in Israel is when Christians are persecuted by those who practice Orthodox Judaism or sometimes by Islamic radicals (though this is less often).

As the Guardian reports,

“The head of the Roman Catholic church in the Holy Land has warned in an interview that Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has made life worse for Christians in the birthplace of Christianity.

The Vatican-appointed Latin Patriarch, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said that the region’s 2,000-year-old Christian community has come under increasing attack, with the most rightwing government in Israel’s history emboldening extremists who have harassed clergy and vandalised religious property at a quickening pace.

The increase in anti-Christian incidents comes as the Israeli settler movement, galvanised by its allies in government, appears to have seized the moment to expand its enterprise in the contested capital.

“The frequency of these attacks, the aggressions, has become something new,” Pizzaballa told the AP. “These people feel they are protected … that the cultural and political atmosphere now can justify, or tolerate, actions against Christians.”[3]

As NBC news reports,

“But church officials and Christian leaders in Israel say this was far from an isolated incident. As tensions over Jewish and Muslim holy sites have erupted in recent weeks, spiraling into violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Christians in the Holy Land say they’re under attack, too.

Although they blame a minority of Jewish extremists for the attacks, they say Israel’s far-right government has fostered a culture of impunity for attacks on non-Jews, emboldening the nation’s most extreme elements.

In January, ultra-Orthodox Jewish lawmakers allied with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed imposing jail time for Christian proselytizing, although after a global outcry, Netanyahu said he would block the bill.

Dimitri Diliani, head of the Palestinian National Christian Coalition, said he felt “more threatened” now by “Israeli policies than any other time.”

“Staying here and protecting our heritage is becoming more difficult,” he said.

In Christianity’s holiest city, churches have been graffitied and clergy who live and work here report being frequently spit on, harassed and even physically attacked by extremist Jews. Christian leaders say most incidents are never thoroughly investigated.”[4]

As Al Jazeera reports,

“Christian leaders in Jerusalem say never have Israeli attackers felt more emboldened than under the far-right ruling coalition.

Jerusalem – Nothing about the attack or what happened since surprised Miran Krikorian. The Armenian owner of Taboon and Wine Bar in the Old City of Jerusalem was not surprised to receive a call the night of January 26 that a mob of Israeli settlers was attacking his bar in the Christian Quarter and shouting “Death to Arabs … Death to Christians.”

It didn’t surprise him how little effort the police made to catch the perpetrators; after some press about the attack and a lack of arrests, police told him two months later they detained three of the suspects among the mob. But they also asked for his surveillance video, despite the videos being already online and surveillance cameras omnipresent in the Old City…

…Hostility by fundamentalist Jews towards Jerusalem’s Christian community is not new, and it is not just Armenian Christians who suffer from it. Priests of all denominations describe being spat at for years. Since 2005, Christian celebrations around Holy Week, particularly Holy Fire Saturday, have brought military barricades and harsh treatment from soldiers and settlers alike, with the number of worshippers allowed inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre drastically limited, from as many as 11,000 historically during the Holy Fire ceremony to now 1,800 since last year, with authorities citing safety concerns.

But since Israel’s new government – the most right wing and religious in its history – came to power, incidents against Christians in Jerusalem have reportedly become more violent and common. At the beginning of the year, 30 Christian graves at the Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery were desecrated. In the Armenian Quarter, vandals spray-painted “Death to Arabs, Christians and Armenians,” on the walls.”[5]

As The Times of Israel reports,

“The picture of safe coexistence painted by Israeli officials is starkly at odds with the experiences Jerusalem’s Christian leaders themselves describe. While they readily acknowledge that there is no organized or governmental effort against them, Christian clergy in the Old City tell of a deteriorating atmosphere of harassment, apathy from authorities, and a growing fear that incidents of spitting and vandalism could turn into something far darker.

And with Netanyahu already under scrutiny from Western allies over policies toward the Palestinians and attempts at sweeping judicial reform, deteriorating safety for Christians — or at least Church leaders disseminating that narrative — could become another serious diplomatic problem for Israel’s embattled government…

…The next week, the Maronite community center in the northern city of Ma’alot-Tarshiha was vandalized by unknown assailants over the Christmas holiday.

Jerusalem’s Armenian community buildings were also targeted by vandals, with multiple discriminatory phrases graffitied on the exterior of structures in the Armenian Quarter. According to the Armenian Patriarchate, “revenge,” “death to Christians,” “death to Arabs and gentiles” and “death to Armenians” were all graffitied in the quarter.

The attacks kept coming. On a Thursday night in late January, a gang of religious Jewish teens threw chairs at an Armenian restaurant inside the city’s New Gate. The vandalism at the Church of the Flagellation occurred the very next week.

And last week, a resident of southern Israel was arrested after attacking priests with an iron bar at the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in Gethsemane.

“Terrorist attacks, by radical Israeli groups, targeting churches, cemeteries, and Christian properties… have become almost a daily occurrence that evidently increases in intensity during Christian holidays,” said the Greek Orthodox Church.”[6]

And lastly, as Religion News Service reports,

“As anti-Christian incidents perpetrated by religious Jewish extremists have increased in number during the past several months, church leaders are pleading with government officials to take the matter more seriously.  

Until recently, those pleas have gone largely unheeded. Preoccupied with an unprecedented political crisis sparked by the December 2022 election of a government dominated by nationalists and ultra-Orthodox Jews, Israeli officials have given little attention to the anti-Christian assaults, say church leaders. 

Bishop Rafic Nahra in Nazareth, Catholic patriarchal vicar for Israel, called the police response “weak.”

“If synagogues were being attacked, the response would be stronger,” he asserted.

Police have arrested only a handful of the teenagers and young men who have spat at nuns and priests in the Old City of Jerusalem, vandalized church property and disrupted Christian prayer gatherings.  

This inaction has spurred even more attacks by dozens of religious extremists scattered around the country, according to resident Christians.”[7]  

These are not isolated reports and they are not new, even though all of these reports come from 2023, this does not show that Christian persecution is new in Israel, only that it has recently gotten worse.

Are you aware that Israel is one of the places on earth where Christians are persecuted and attacked regularly? Especially on certain holy days? I suspect that you are not. In fact, I can only think that the absolute complete support many Christians display for the nation of Israel shows that they are unaware of this persecution. It is even worse to say that the people who are persecuting Christians are the people of God.

It is one thing to condemn terror attacks against civilians. That such an act would garner a harsh response from Christians is understandable. To then turn around and say that Israel are the people of God is to go way too far and this needs to be challenged, even if it is not popular to do so.

This is what the Bible says about persecution of his people and where it comes from,

“16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea” (Rev. 12:16-17).

Who are those that “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus”? Christians, whether Jewish or Gentile. Those who hold to faith in the name of Jesus Christ. There are Christians of both sorts in Israel. There are even some Christians in Gaza who trace their descent all the way back to the primitive church of the Apostles. Incredible isn’t it? But such is the perseverance of the saints, the people of God, they can survive and flourish in even the most unfavourable conditions.

As Christians we should not instantly side with any state that tolerates persecution of our brothers and sisters. Israel needs the gospel as much as Iran, China or many other parts of the world where Christians are a persecuted minority. It is a travesty that so many Christians today do not understand the concept of who the people of God are according to the Scriptures, but then, they have been led astray by many bishops and preachers who have taught them the wrongs things on this issue.  

List of References

[1] Observe in the Bible how many Gentiles joined the people of God, people such as Rahab, Ruth, Obed-Edom, Uriah the Hittite, Job and many others who were not Jewish or even Hebrew, starting with Abraham himself who was Aramean to be begin with.

[2] I also think there is a bit of an allusion here to the fact that Jesus is going to extend the invitation to his kingdom to all peoples, and that he is going to take those with a heart of stone and turn them into hearts of flesh. Praise God that he did as well.


  1. Good blogging on this topic, Rev. Matt! Even the people I know who have visited the Holy Land (spoken with such awe and reverence, as if the entire Earth were not filled with His glory) have no idea about these goings-on because a) they aren't interested in proselytizing, but in viewing and b) they're kept strictly to the tourist paths. The propaganda is that Jews are just a hair's-breadth from being just like Christians, and barely even need to repent, they're so special! Sharing around. Thanks!

    1. I am glad you were encouraged and that this post was helpful. It is surprising to me how many Christians are not aware of the reality for Christians on the ground in Israel. What is also surprising is how many people know and just do not care.