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Access to Christian Holy Sites in Occupied Territories

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Today Reuters reports on the flood of Christian Arabs who are leaving the Occupied Territories because of the issue of access to holy sites, including the fact that Bethlehem is surrounded by the towering security fence, and it’s hard to get in and out. The Christians’ issues aren’t much different from Muslims’ issues. When I was in Jerusalem last summer, I saw what a hassle it is for Arabs to get into the Damascus Gate in E. Jerusalem on Fridays. One Palestinian merchant complained bitterly about how little trade there was in the Old City compared to trade pre-67, when Jordan controlled the Old City.

Of course, the old borders were bad news for Jews. They couldn’t get to the Western Wall, or into the Jewish quarter of the Old City.

Jerusalem is a sacred city to three religions. The idea that one of those religions should control the city is absurd. The Anglo-American Inquiry commission reached that conclusion before Partition. In ’48, post-partition, Folke Bernadotte of the U.N. reached a similar conclusion, before he was gunned down by Zionist extremists.

The Reuters story underlines the real threat to the Israeli occupation that is arising from a new source: Christians. Jimmy Carter’s irritation with the Israelis in his recent book is a measure of this new opposition. My Christian mother-in-law, who brought hospital supplies into Bethlehem ten years ago, regularly sends me news accounts of Christians’ difficulties in the Occupied Territories. Scott McConnell wrote about this last summer.

Zionists are counting on American evangelicals to bail them out. This is the message of Zev Chafets’s recent book, A Match Made in Heaven. Let’s get help wherever we can, Chafets says, including the extreme right.

I wonder how long that shidduch (sorry, Yiddish for marriage) is going to last. When mainstream Christians can’t even spend the night in Bethlehem… 

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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