According to a report from Al-Monitor: “Some of the gunmen…also fired into the air and demanded that the Christians pay the Jizyah – a per capital annual tax – called the dhimmi - levied on non-Muslim subjects living under Islamic rule.”
“Jifna residents made emergency calls to the police, but it would be three hours before anyone would arrive. Part of the delay, it turned out, was because Jifna lies in Area B of the West Bank — administered by the Palestinians but with joint Israeli-Palestinian security control — the police needed approval from Israeli authorities before entering it,” Al Monitor explained.
Commenting on the incident and its impact on local Christians, Wadie Abunassar, the Director at The International Center for Consultations, wrote on Facebook that “the residents of Jifna, most of whom are Christians, have voiced anger and resentment for two main reasons: first, the big attack carried out by some residents of Al-Am’ari refugee camp and, second, the delay in the arrival of the Palestinian security forces.”
“We hope that everyone will learn that Christians are an inalienable part of the Palestinian people, that they should not be vulnerable in any way,” Abunassar said.
At the parish hall in St. Joseph, a local lay Christian explained to the Philos Project group that in the Palestinian territories, “we Christians have a strong sense of nationality and Palestinian identity.”
The political stance of many Christians in the West Bank mirrors those of the Muslim majority. They believe in the “right of return” -to the land currently occupied by Israel- and blame Israel for most, if not all, of their current sufferings.
But the lay Christian speaking to the group, who himself spent time in an Israeli prison for joining the Second Intifada, wondered “if the end of the occupation (from Israel) would bring to power a radicalized version of Islam that would totally decimate us.”
According to Nicholson, “Palestinian society cannot survive without Christians. Although they only make up about 1% of the population, Palestinian Christians provide about 50% of the health services and 70% of the educational programs in the West Bank and Gaza. There will be no flourishing State of Palestine without a strong local church. The Palestinian Authority should do a lot more to empower and protect Christians living under its rule.”
When trying to explain other causes of the shrinking population of Christians in the Holy Land, Fr. Bahbah acknowledged the lack of opportunities in the region. He also took a swipe at the allure of western secularization.
“Today’s young (Palestinians) want to have fun, to dance, to travel... They don't like Jesus,” he said.
The economic reasons for Christians to emigrate have to do with the state of near collapse of the Palestinian economy, in part because of the crippling regulations imposed by Israel.
But Nicholson believes that the survival of Christian communities in the Holy Land requires a significant engagement with Israel.
“Israel offers a unique, if unusual, opportunity for Christian renaissance in the Middle East: unique because Israel is one of the few countries in the region that is stable and free, and unusual because Israel identifies as a Jewish state. Anyone who cares about Middle Eastern Christians should seize on this opportunity, finding ways to work with Israel and strengthen the local church. This will help Christians in Israel, but it will also send a much-needed message of hope to those living in other parts of the region,” he told CNA.
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Meanwhile in Jifna, the Christian village surrounded by olive groves, apricot trees and grapevines, Fr. Bahbah says that he keeps on with his daily tasks as a pastor with a sense of hope.
“We believe that peace will come, because Jesus lived here and he loves this land.”