United Christian Communities' Blog

Links to Articles of Interest.
January 9, 2016, 4:19 pm
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The Huffington PostThe Christians of Israel: A Remarkable Group

“The Christian population, through low birth rate and massive emigration, has dropped from 20% of the Middle East in 1900 to 4% today and will drop to 3% by 2050. The stateless Christians, unlike the Jews after 1948, lack a military, secret police or government. Without a strong state or patron they are often hopeless in the face of repressive states or movements.”

The Christian Century: The other Jerusalem: Poverty and isolation in Arab neighborhoods

“The Israeli condition is one of denial, the Palestinian condition is one of despair and clinical depression.

Jerusalem has witnessed the slow disappearance of Christians. From being 20 percent of the city’s population in 1948, Christians are now a mere 2 percent, or about 15,000, of whom 12,000 are Palestinians. Many of the rest are church officials or members of monastic orders. The migration of Christians has siphoned off many of the educated and wealthier Palestinians who might have engaged Israeli authorities in meaningful negotiation.”

The Daily Beast:  ISIS of Nazareth: Terror Group Arrives in Jesus’s Hometown

“The radicalization of Jews and Muslims is squeezing Christians out of the Holy Land—and ISIS’s reported arrival in the biblical city is just the latest sign.

The Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, announced the arrest of five Nazareth residents who, it said, had declared their allegiance to ISIS. They had been training with arms, meeting covertly, and preparing for a jihad on “infidels,” the agency said.

In the city revered as the hometown of Jesus, current regional and domestic turmoil has modern-day Christian residents facing existential questions. They, after all, might well have been the “infidels” the ISIS recruits wanted to kill.”

Watch the Trailer for Hummus the Movie
January 9, 2016, 4:11 pm
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 a look at the people behind the hummus . .  for whom hummus is an ideology

filmakingKeep a lookout for the new movie: Hummus!  (There is a link to the trailer below.)

The newspaper Haaretz reports that: “The main characters in the movie are

Suheila al-Hindi, the Muslim woman who owns the award-winning Abu Suheil hummus restaurant in Acre and the only Muslim female business owner in the heart of Acre’s Arab market.

“Generally you don’t find women working at Arab restaurants,” said director Oren Rosenfeld. “In Abu Gosh, they told us that this is a profession for men only, and that’s true for Acre’s other hummus restaurants, too. Aside from Suheila and her sister, all the other workers there are men. It’s amazing to see this woman in Acre whom everyone respects – the women, the suppliers and the customers.”

Olivier, a Benedictine monk who lives in the Israeli hummus capital Abu Gosh with a mission to find the perfect hummus.

Abu Shukri, the owner of Abu Gosh’s most famous hummus restaurant, who says that hummus is an affair for men only.

Jalil Dabit of Ramle’s restaurant Hummus Samir, who organizes acoustic rock concerts at his family’s hummus restaurant.

Jamaica native Aluf Abir, also known as the rapper Nigel the Admor, of the Hebrew-language song “Hummus makes you stupid,” the spiritual mentor behind the Yokneam-based hummus chain Hummus Eliyahu.

Click here to read the full article.

Click here to watch the trailer.

Christmas Is Barbecue Time for Holy Land Christians
January 9, 2016, 4:03 pm
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lambThe newspaper Haaretz reports that: Christian Arabs in Israel and the Palestine have their own culinary traditions.
The mezzes: – the table is laden with Arab classics like tabbouleh, fattoush and of course, hummus. And then it’s time to fire up the barbecue to prepare the meal’s centerpiece – grilled meats.  Whole stuffed lambs, mounds of mutton ribs and a host of barbecued meats are some of the traditional Christmas dishes served by Arab Christians living in the land of Jesus.

[Christmas brings the whole, extended family together] over a meal, followed by midnight mass. The following day, on Christmas, there’ll be another large meal. “It’s a bit of a festive 24 hours.”

While their Muslim neighbors generally don’t drink, as alcohol is forbidden by Islam, “we as Christians tend also to drink some arak beforehand or whisky with the food.”

In northern Israel, the traditions are slightly different. There, they show the influences of Lebanese and Syrian cuisine.  Festive dishes include Lebanese-style kubbeh – balls of kubbeh nayeh, a raw-meat dish similar to tartare, stuffed with a filling of cooked ground beef, onions and olive oil. On Christmas Day, the leftovers will be roasted in the oven to make another dish, kubbeh siniyeh.

Christians in the north generally don’t go to church for midnight mass, but rather only on Christmas morning. That means that Christmas Eve dinners can last well into the night. “By the end of the evening, everyone is drunk.”

But the party doesn’t end on December 25. if you are Eastern Orthodox, or a family member is. That means they’ll be celebrating Christmas again – and hosting their own meals – on Eastern Orthodox Christmas in two weeks.

Click here to read the full article


Excerpts from American Magazine’s Interview with Bishop William Shomali, the Palestinian-born auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem
January 9, 2016, 3:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
On the nature of the Palestine-Israel troubles, the effect on Christians living in the Holy Land, and what Christians worldwide can to do help.

william_shomaliBishop Shomali: “The nature of the problems between Palestine and Israel is ideological and not only political. In fact, there are two opposing narratives, two different versions of geography and history, and two ways of explaining the same conflict.

What Palestinians call “Occupied Territories,” Israelis call “Disputed Territories.” There are two names for Jerusalem: Al Kuds for Arabs and Jerushalaim for Jews; and what Jews call “Temple Mount,” Palestinians call “Haram Al Sharif.” Even the gates of Jerusalem are called by two different names. Palestinians call their victims “martyrs and heroes” while Israelis call them “terrorists.”

[Unfortunately] if there are two ways of looking at the same conflict, there are also two opposed ways of looking at [any] solution.

A media war accompanies this struggle as one side tries to convince the world that its cause is right and due to the savagery of the other. Netanyahu and Abbas accuse each other. Netanyahu says: “It is time that President Abbas stops not only justifying it but also instigating it,” while Abbas criticizes Netanyahu for the ongoing disproportionate use of force and punitive actions such as demolition of houses, revocation of residency status and air-raids on Gaza, killing innocent people asleep in their homes.

While the Israeli leadership attributes the escalation in violence to Palestinian incitement, most Palestinians point to the decades long Israeli military occupation as the root cause of recent events.

We fear that more Christians will leave the Holy Land, looking for a better future for their children and for themselves.

As religion is part of the problem in the Holy Land, it should be part of the solution.

In this multicultural and multi-religious land we must include Muslims and Jews in our actions of mercy. Christians should avoid the mentality of ghetto whereby charity stops at the borders of our own parish or my own family.

Christian leaders try to be a bridge between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land. In the aftermath of last Gaza war we visited the Har Nof synagogue and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the same week. We did so after two Palestinians from Jerusalem carried out an attack in the synagogue and killed four rabbis and a Druze officer. The assailants were shot dead. It was a bloody massacre. So we visited Har Nof to express our solidarity in their time of suffering, as well as our condemnation and disapproval. In that same week, as the provocation against the Al-Aqsa Mosque became intense, we made a visit to express our solidarity with the Muslims who have the right to pray there without being disturbed.

We kindly ask the different dioceses throughout the world to promote pilgrimages to the Holy Land especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Despite the many difficulties and the tension that existed and still exists, this Hold Land is safe for pilgrims; they are much respected and appreciated by all the inhabitants of this land. The presence of pilgrims is a real enrichment not only for those who come to pray at the holy sites but also for the whole Christian community here. Even Jews and Muslims are seeking to increase the number. Without pilgrims the Holy Land cannot fulfill its vocation and mission.

Our church, with the support of many Catholic dioceses around the world, contributes to peace by:

Preaching non-violence: Since the beginning, and from the escalation of the Gaza war, we asked both sides to stop incitement and violence, and to respect the status quo in the Al-Aqsa compound. We asked that any resistance, unless it deals with immediate self-defense, should be nonviolent otherwise it becomes unethical.

Being the voice of truth: This means condemning evil wherever it originates. The bishops of the Holy Land condemned the arson in Tabgha committed by Jews, and the torching of Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus done by Palestinians.

Practicing interreligious dialogue: This dialogue is possible because of the common values that exist between us and others. Such a dialogue can help mutual understanding and fight religious radicalism.

Educating to tolerance and respect through high quality Catholic schools.”

Click here to read the complete interview

Scientists Come Up with ‘Most Accurate Recreation’ of Jesus Face
January 9, 2016, 3:50 pm
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mansilhqmarkChristian Today reports: “For Christians, what Jesus Christ may have looked like has been a mystery. He has been depicted in various appearances by people from different times and cultures.

Through forensic anthropology, scientists have come up with what is believed to be the most accurate recreation of Jesus’ Christ face in history.

Guided by the description by evangelist Matthew, the scientists extrapolated that Christ had features that were typical of Galilean Semites of His era.”

Click here to read the full article and to see a picture of what the scientists think Jesus might have looked like.

Episode 1 of The Forgotten Christians is available for viewing!
July 1, 2015, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As part of our Mission we seek, among other things, to inform Christians living outside the Holy Land of the the existence and situation of Christians living in the Holy Land, and of their flight from the Holy Land. To that end we are preparing a series of short films, called The Forgotten Christians, where you can see and hear them tell their stories.

Click here to view Episode 1 of The Forgotten Christians. You can also view it on YouTube or Vimeo.

Churches and not-profit organizations should feel free to download and place the episodes on their websites, provided the episodes are included unedited and in their entirety.

And please send us any comments or suggestions you may have by sending us an email to unitedchristiancommunities@gmail.com. And click here to visit us on line.

The Spotlight On: Mira Awad
November 24, 2014, 4:51 pm
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 Mira Awaḍ is a Christian-Arab-Israeli-Palestinian singer, actress, and songwriter. It’s “complicated”.
She was the first Arab Israeli to represent Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest, singing the first Israeli Eurovision song with Arabic lyrics.  When she was selected to represent Israel at Eurovision she became the target of harsh criticism from pro-Palestinian groups; the global movement to boycott Israel, BDS, even issued a petition calling for her to be boycotted.

At the same time, she says “I experience racism in Israeli society in all sorts of ways, especially if they don’t realize that I’m an Arab.” . . .  Early on, when they didn’t know yet who Mira Awad was, I would show up to sign a rental contract for an apartment. I looked fine, I spoke fine, but as soon as I would say ‘Mira Awad’ and take out my identity card, then they said ‘Um… um…’ And suddenly there were all kinds of delays.

It isn’t simple today, either [she says]. In Israel, no matter how successful you are – if you’re an Arab, the moment there is security tension, you don’t know if you’ll have work in the foreseeable future. . . .

She also reports that, “Today, the situation of women is amazing compared to when I left home and began to sing. But there are still challenges. It is not just a matter of wage gaps. At all companies, there is contempt for women. Even the most senior female CEO will be less respected than a male CEO in the same role.

[She also says that] in a conservative society like the Arab one, it is even more complex and complicated, because there is patriarchal silencing of women.. .

“An Arab woman can have a fulfilling career, but she is expected to preserve the family honor. She does not have sexual freedom, her body is ‘on loan’ until her parents transfer the kushan [an Ottoman land deed] to the husband. The moment a woman says, ‘No, I’m deciding what to do with my body,’ it’s a problem. ”

It’s “complicated” being a female Christian-Arab-Israeli-Palestinian.

This article has been excerpted from an interview Awad recently gave to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.   Click here to read it.

The Last Christian Shop-Owners in Jerusalem’s Old City
November 24, 2014, 4:48 pm
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From the Jerusalem Post. “Try the shop with the green awning,” the Arab shop-owner says. “I think there are still some Christians who work there.”

The stalls in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem may be adorned with crucifixes, images of the Madonna and holy water for sale, but [don’t assume they are owned by Christians. Today] mainly Muslim vendors run and operate the shops in the Christian Quarter.

The Salman brothers are two of the last Christian shop-owners in the Christian Quarter. . . .  The two brothers (who wished to keep their first names anonymous). . .  have owned and run Salman Souvenir shop for the past 50 years. Before that their father owned the shop, and before that their grandfather did.. . .

The Salman brothers say that it’s [mostly] Christians they see coming to visit the Holy Land. (In 2013, 53 percent of Israel’s tourists were Christians.) . .  To Christians, the Temple Mount [in the Old City of Jerusalem and the site of the Al Aksa Mosque] holds great historical significance . . . The temple played a prominent role in the life of Jesus Christ, and is mentioned in the New Testament on three separate occasions. . . .

Despite this, Christians are advised against praying at the holy site, much like Jews. Throughout the current debate, no Christian leaders have stepped in to advocate for Christian prayer upon the Temple Mount. . . . “But”, Salman says, “Jesus had been praying on the mosque. It was a temple in the time of the Lord. But now, everything has changed here.”  [The tiny Christian minority that remains in the Holy Land tries to stay away from politics.]  Salman adds: “There is Jewish and there is Muslim, and they are interested in politics. But we are neutral.”

. . . The Salman brothers say that the population of Christians living in the Old City is decreasing as a result of politics and, what they feel, is a lack of governmental concern for Israel’s Christian population. “If it stays like this there will be no Christians living in Jerusalem. So many people have left because of the dirty politics” says the co-owner of their shop.

Click here to read the full article.

Palestinian Women Empowering Palestinian Women.
November 24, 2014, 4:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

palestinianwomenA video report of the Media Line reports that: “Iman Darawi, a soft-spoken Muslim woman wearing a traditional grey headscarf, doesn’t look like a pioneer. But [the] divorced self-employed Palestinian seamstress from the town of Beit Sahour [a largely Christian village] near Bethlehem, is a symbol of how roles are changing for Palestinian women. [She] is responsible for seven seamstresses in Beit Sahour who produce  traditional Palestinian embroidery that is sold in the Al-Balad workshop in Jerusalem’s Old City.

[The Al-Balad workshop a project of the Arab Orthodox Society, one of the oldest women’s organizations in Jerusalem. Established in 1926, its mission is the empowerment of women through enterprise and economic self-reliance by creating job opportunities for them within Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Society’s Chairwoman is Nora Kort, a Christian born and raised in Jerusalem. Click here to visit the website of the Arab Orthodox Society.]

“We are trying to teach the women how to fish, not just to give them fish,” Hala Jahshan, who runs the Jerusalem shop, said.  Palestinian society remains traditional, and many men frown on women working outside the home. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, women make up only 18% of the labor force. Women marry young, and especially in the villages, have many children.

“When many of these women come to us, they are broken,” Ms. Kort said “When a man doesn’t work, he often takes out his anger on his wife. But once these women start working, I see the development of their feeling of value and self-worth.”

She says many of the women use the money for their daughters’ education, which especially pleases her. Although about one-third of the women she employs are either illiterate or have only a rudimentary education, most of their daughters attend university.

Ms. Kort says that when tourism is good, the project can employ up to 500 women.  They each make about $200, which can go far in the West Bank where food is comparatively inexpensive.

Ms. Kort also says she sees the shop as a way of preserving traditional Palestinian culture, and helping to build a Palestinian identity. “Palestinian skills and crafts have died out because of the competition with China,” she said “Chinese items are all over the place and they’re very cheap.”

Ms. Kort sees the traditional embroidery as a way to unite all three religions in Jerusalem. Many of the shop’s customers are Israeli Jews, a few of whom have even asked for embroidery lessons. The women who sew are both Christian and Muslim.

“Religion is important to us but not religious fundamentalism”” Kort says. “Religion is tolerance, love and peace, and I read a lot of these messages in the symbols of the embroidery.”

Click here to see the video.

There Is a Place Where Christians, Jews and Muslims Get Along Peacefully . . . It’s Mbale, Uganda! 
November 24, 2014, 4:45 pm
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mirembaThe Times of Israel reports that there is a place where Christians, Jews and Muslims get along peacefully: Mbale, Uganda.

Christians are the majority in Uganda as a whole but Muslims are a majority in the Mbale region. Jews are a tiny minority in Uganda, with only 2,000 members, mostly around Mbale.

Mbale hosts a cooperative of 2,000 Jewish, Christian and Muslim coffee farmers who grow coffee called “Mirembe Kawomera,” which translates as “Delicious Peace” in the local language of Luganda.

The cooperative started in 2004.  Previously, Jews and Muslims had argued over land ownership issues because some synagogues had been appropriated as mosques and churches during the Amin years. Today members of the three faiths enjoy celebrating their holy days together. Muslims and Christians are regulars at the Passover seder table and Jews regularly join Christmas celebrations or Eid festivals.

Ugandans are worried about the influence of extremist Muslim violence. . . . This interfaith cooperative is a preemptive strike against fanaticism, by creating close working relationships across religions so children grow up in a more tolerant environment.”

Click here to read the full article.