AS Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded cantankerous negotiations to finalise his right-wing cabinet, Palestinian-Israeli evangelicals were hoping for something better.
Alienated by campaign rhetoric stigmatising Arab citizens as an electoral threat, they turned in response to the source they know best: the Gospel.
In doing so, they seek to reverse a disturbing trend of isolation from society as a whole, and in particular their Jewish neighbors.
‘Are we not asked to be the salt and light of the earth?’ asked Revd Azar Ajaj, president of Nazareth Evangelical College, in an open letter shortly after the Israeli elections.‘How important, then, to show love to those who have been styled as our “enemies”. In fact we are asked to be peacemakers.’
And from April 16-18, he gathered 60 local and international leaders to discuss how.
The ‘Evangelicals and Peacemaking’ conference was sponsored in part by the Baptist Mission Society UK. It urged participants as Palestinian Christians in Israel to seek justice and reconciliation to create a state for all its citizens.
Present at the conference was Salim Munayer, head of Musalaha, which since 1990 has bucked the trends of intifadas and settlement building to call for peace between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.
The election rhetoric was quite discouraging, Munayer told Lapido Media.
Netanyahu rallied his supporters saying the Arabs were coming out to vote ‘in droves’. His foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman told Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab Joint List which placed third in total Knesset seats, ‘you’re not wanted here.’
Meanwhile the Joint List – a merger of secular, communist, and Islamist parties – included the symbolic presence of a politician calling for a caliphate in Jerusalem. It received the strong endorsement of Hamas.
Pressed between a regional rise in Islamism, mirrored by the gains of religious Zionism, Christians are being squeezed.
And as a result, they are withdrawing from both.
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