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Palestinian Christians beside Muslims in Intifada

Most of the dead were Muslims but Palestinian Christians have suffered dearly from the Israeli occupation army.

November 04, 2000, 09:22 PM
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Reuters)

The Palestinian Intifada or uprising against the Israeli occupation can easily be mistaken for a holy war between Muslims and Jews, but that is an image Palestinian Christians are keen to dispel.

A Palestinian boy in Beit Sahour sitting in his ruined house.

"This Intifada is a Palestinian Intifada, not Muslim, not Christian," Bethlehem's Mayor Hana Nasser told Reuters. "We consider ourselves Palestinians before anything else."

Bethlehem and the surrounding towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour are the backbone of the Palestinian Christian community, estimated at 180,000 people.

Christians constitute just under 10 percent of the 2.25 million Palestinians living in Israel and the self-rule areas.

Today, Christians are a little less than half the population of Bethlehem. The white and green minaret of a mosque towers over Manger Square, where Muslims gather on Fridays to pray. Across the expanse, the sandstone Church of the Nativity revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus glows golden in the sunlight.

United in prayer

Some days, the sounds of pealing church bells and mosque ‘azzan’ (Muslim call to prayer) deafens Bethlehem as Palestinian Christians and Muslims confirm their unity against Israel.

A Catholic nun inspects a wrecked house in Beit Jala.

"We suffer just as much as the Muslims because we are all in the same boat," Father Jacob of Bethlehem’s Orthodox Church said while marching in the funeral procession of a Muslim youth killed by Israeli gunfire this week.

"Our destiny is the same, we are all parts of one body. Unfortunately, this body is diseased and we will all do what we can so that it can fight off this disease."

Palestinians want the Intifada to liberate their occupied homeland; the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem are all under Israeli occupation.

But since most Palestinians are Muslims, it is easy to overlook the Christian involvement in the Intifada.

Thousands of Muslims throughout the world have rallied behind the Palestinians against the Israeli aggression in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since Israel’s leading right-wing radical leader Ariel Sharon visited Al-Aqsa mosque, a Jerusalem site holy to Muslims.

Sharon’s September 28 visit was perceived as sacrilegious and it sparked Muslims to fight Israel to rescue the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine, from further Jewish blasphemies. The clashes have led to the killing of more than 165 Palestinians.

Most of the dead were Muslims but Palestinian Christians have suffered dearly from the Israeli occupation army too.

Jacob Qaysieh’s home was destroyed by Israeli fire during one of the daily Israeli attacks on the Palestinian town of Beit Jala. Israelis are attacking the town on regular basis using tanks and shelling it with heavy weapons.

Surveying the blackened wreckage, the 45-year-old father of three swore that he would take revenge.

"If my children were bigger, I would have sent them out to the frontlines. There is no way Israel will get away with doing this," he said as he was looking to his ruined house.

Source: http://www.arabia.com/news/article/english/0,11827,32645,00.html



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