Thursday, January 24, 2008

A different situation for Palestinian Israelis

Janan Simaan, Palestinian Christian Israeli, after our visit with her at Sabeel Nazareth

After some much-needed shopping in Jericho, our group headed to
Northern Israel to see holy sites in Nazareth and Upper Galilee. In Nazareth we enjoyed a fine lunch at a Christian restaurant, followed by a tour through the Church of the Annunciation.

In the late afternoon we met with Janan Simaan, representative of Sabeel Nazareth, who told us of the particular plight of Israeli Palestinian Christians. Janan described the status of Israeli Palestinians (Christian and Muslim) as "not second-class, but last class." There are 1.3 million Palestinians living in Israel, and although this population has the vote they do not have equal rights in the Jewish state. At the airport, for instance, Palestinian Israelis are sent to a different line and the security check there may take hours to perform. Schools and services in Israeli Palestinian villages are meager in comparison to Jewish Israeli schools and services. Israeli Palestinians are not allowed in the military, but for many jobs in Israeli past military experience is a requirement.

Janan shared criticism of the Church as well, which she sees as out of touch with the needs of everyday Palestinian Christians in Nazareth.

On a regular basis Israeli Palestinian towns are appropriated for Jewish settlements, with the Israeli government taking away Arab property for purported "security" reasons. This happens, according to Janan, even though the Israeli courts have ruled it to be illegal. She gave the example of the Arab village of Mashad, where the Israeli government is removing olive trees and giving the land away to Russian Jewish immigrants.

Janan lamented the support given Israel by Christian Zionists in America, who send millions of dollars to Israel to strengthen the Israeli government's work. This is interpreted by Israeli Palestinian Christians as a betrayal by the church and another attempt by ignorant or cruel Americans to stamp our Christianity in Jesus' native land.


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