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Blog #360: Life for the Christians of Israel and Gaza

John Cline

To say it is not easy being a Christian in Israel and Gaza is to state the obvious. The following information has been gleaned from various online articles.

Let’s start with Gaza: Less that 1% of the population are Christian, comprising 1,100 individuals in 2022 (a number dropping every year as the Christians emigrate to other countries to avoid the ongoing persecution. Hamas, the controlling party in Hamas which won the 2005 elections and thereafter barred any further elections and thus is the government-for-life, is Islamic in its governance, which means that there is, according to Human Rights Watch, the “repression of civil society” and “severe violations of personal freedom” (e.g., the constant pressure on women to wear Islamic dress, though, there are, so far, no government laws imposing the hijab be worn). Though numbering only a few hundred, there is a community of Christians who have converted from Islam. They are not centered in one particular city and mostly belong to various evangelical and charismatic communities. Due to the fact that official conversion from Islam to Christianity is illegal in accordance with Islamic sharia law in Palestine, these individuals tend to keep a low profile. Gaza’s Christian community mostly lives within the city, especially in areas neighbouring the three main churches, including the Gaza Baptist Church, the only evangelical church in Gaza. In October 20077, Rami Ayyad, the Baptist manager of The Teacher’s Bookshop, the only Christian bookstore in the Gaza Strip, was murdered, following the firebombing of his bookstore and the receipt of death threats from Muslim extremists. Christians in Gaza are trying to survive and to help their brothers and sisters who have lost their homes or cannot stay in their homes any longer. Local churches that the Open Doors ministry has connections with are provided those who found shelter in the church buildings with food and water.

Now let’s turn to Israel: as of 2022, there are approximately 185,000 Christians, mostly living in Nazareth, Haifa, and Shefaram in the north, or in Jerusalem. About 80% of these Christians are Arab Christians, meaning that the remainder are Jewish believers. Christians in Israel have freedom of worship but there is ongoing opposition to them as was seen in recent incidents of Orthodox Jews spitting on Christians and church buildings being vandalized and new church building construction being stopped (though, legally approved). The fact of the matter is that tourism from overseas Christians is a huge money-maker for the nation of Israel – and everyone knows it – so Christianity is tolerated, even if individual Christians endure opposition, even persecution. But it must be said that the Holy Spirit is stirring the hearts of Jewish people to turn to Jesus as the Jews for Jesus organization, to shine a positive light on the situation, now has over 60 workers in Israel, up from zero just a few decades ago. So, there is hope!

Truly, the suffering going on in both Israel and Gaza is beyond comprehension. May we be diligent in our prayers and may the Lord rule supreme in that land.

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