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Numbers of Christians in PA areas steadily decreasing

Headline: “During the days of Christmas – Nablus loses the ‘guardian’ of the unity”

“In Nablus there is an unusual picture: Muslims, Christians, and Samaritans (see note below –Ed.) living together in coexistence, without any palpable atmosphere of religious discrimination (see note below regarding the PA’s claims of “coexistence” –Ed.). The connections between them are intertwined, and therefore one sees Christians decorating the streets on the birthday of Prophet [Muhammad], Muslims participating in lighting the Christmas tree, and Samaritans blessing the Muslims and Christians for their holidays – and all of them ascend Mt. Gerizim on the Samaritan holidays.

Father Yusuf Sa’adeh, who died at the beginning of the month [December 2019], was once recorded on camera standing together with the participants of Friday prayers at Martyrs Square in Nablus as a sign of resistance to the occupation’s crimes. In the audience of worshippers, he prayed to Allah in his own way that He liberate Palestine, protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and aid the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity…

Islamic preacher Zuheir Debiy told [the official PA daily] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida that he never heard Father Yusuf Sa’adeh say ‘I am a Christian’; he would say ‘I am a Palestinian refugee from Haifa,’ and always stood alongside his people’s cause…

He added, ‘The occupation has attempted to manipulate identity and religious discourse, particularly to the tune of sectarianism, and Father Sa’adeh was one of those who discerned the occupation’s plot.’ …

Six hundred Christians live in Nablus. This number, which is decreasing, worried Father Yusuf Sa’adeh, and he expressed this in an interview he gave in the past to Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. He emphasized that the number of Christians in Nablus and all of Palestine is on the decline, and said that in the 1950s and 1960s the number of Christians in Nablus stood at 3,000, while currently the number is just 600. Likewise, at the same time the percentage of Christians in Bethlehem was 85%, while currently they constitute no more than 17%. The situation is similar in Jerusalem, where the number of Christians is no greater than 600, while in the past they numbered more than 3,500…

In his last interview with Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, he said, among other things: ‘Jesus was born in this holy land; Muhammad, peace be upon him, visited Palestine in his Night Journey; and Omar ibn Al-Khattib (i.e., a caliph and one of Muhammad's companions) visited Nablus in the year 636. Therefore, the Palestinians who are able – Christians and Muslims alike – need to return immediately to their homeland. Emigration is not an option. Standing firm on the land is the only option.’”

 

Samaritans – A small ethno-religious group residing primarily in Holon (in Israel) and in the Samaritan village Kiryat Luza (near Nablus in the West Bank). The Samaritans claim ancestry from the ancient Israelites and adhere to the religious law of Samaritanism. While Samaritanism is closely related to Judaism, there are some fundamental differences. Samaritans refer to the Bible as their sole religious scripture, do not celebrate any Jewish festival that took place after the writing of the Bible (i.e., Channukah, Purim), and consider Mt. Gerizim near Nablus their holiest place (believing this is where Abraham bound Isaac and God instructed them to build the Temple), as opposed to Jews who consider Mt. Moriah (the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem their holiest place. No Jewish community today recognizes the Samaritans as an expression of Judaism, and for Samaritans to wed Jewish partners in a traditional ceremony they are required to undergo a full conversion to Judaism. The Samaritan community numbers roughly 800 members today.

 

The PA often makes claims about peaceful coexistence with members of other religions and/or respect for all monotheistic religions. However, Palestinian Muslims frequently do not coexist peacefully and respectfully with their Samaritan and Christian compatriots, nor with other Christians or Jews. The following are a few examples: a. The Samaritans now living in the Samaritan village of Kiryat Luza, on Mount Gerizim near Nablus in the West Bank, lived in Nablus until the outbreak in 1987 of the first Intifada - a Palestinian wave of violence and terror against Israel in which approximately 200 Israelis were murdered. At that time, their Muslim neighbors began to harass them, causing them to move to Mount Gerizim, where they established Kiryat Luza. b. Although officially the PA claims to treat Christians equally, it has no laws to protect freedom of religion nor does it ensure equal protection to Christians in its judicial system; its forces have attacked groups of Palestinian Christians (e.g., Beit Sahur, August 1997); clause 2 of Article 4 of the PA Basic Law specifies Shari'ah law as that "The principles of Islamic Shari'a shall be the main source of legislation;" and it has broadcast through its official media sermons with statements such as: "Allah the Almighty has called upon us not to ally with the Jews or the Christians, not to like them, not to become their partners, not to support them, and not to sign agreements with them." [Official PA TV, Friday sermon at a mosque in Gaza by Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, Oct. 13, 2006] c. The Christian population in Bethlehem, a city of great significance for Christianity, has significantly declined - it has dropped from 85% in 1948 to 40% in 1967 and 16% in 2016. This drop in population has been caused in large part by the rise of Islamism and the systematic discrimination against and harrassment of Christians (see examples above) - factors that the Bethlehem Christian community cannot publicly speak out against for fear of repercussions. d. Only Muslims can pray at the Temple Mount; Palestinians and the Jordanian Waqf do not agree to Christian or Jewish worship at the site.

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