The results of research project reveal that Christian Palestinians living in Israel face an identity crisis, with 70 percent claiming that they “feel lost”. This is having a particularly strong effect on the young people in the community.
Presenting the details of the survey at a conference in Haifa, Dr.Jareis Khoury, Director of the Al-Liqa’ Centre in Jerusalem, said that the single most important contributory factor is the education received by Palestinian Christians. Those taking part in the survey pointed the finger at Israel’s government schools and those in the private sector for not teaching anything about Christian Arab civilisation pre- and post the advent of Islam.
Inter-community relations are also suffering, with 86 percent of the respondents convinced that the relationship between the Muslims and Druze, for example, has deteriorated over the past five years.
The Latin Patriarch, Michel Sabbah, told the conference that the current situation of Arab Christians in Palestine is unstable because there is public “speculation about the ethnic cleansing of our community through migration and displacement”. He added, “There is an absence of a sound syllabus to educate people about the effects of intolerance caused by the violence here [in Israel], in Lebanon, in Iraq or Egypt.”
According to the Roman Catholic Bishop Elias Shoqour, “We Arab Christians in Palestine are in a crisis that has been growing for 60 years; our search for an identity is ongoing on many levels, political, social and educational.”
The Palestinian Christian community has been shrinking for many years, causing concern among some Christian groups overseas. Many are worried about the effect this has on areas traditionally associated with Christian pilgrimage, such as Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank and Nazareth in Galilee, part of Palestine occupied by the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.