Learning Many Things in Bethlehem

From May 26 to June 5, 2018, my friend Elias and I went to Israel and Palestine (West Bank).

Church of the Nativity in the center of Bethlehem in Palestine.

Nave of the Church of the Nativity.

We stayed at a hotel in Beit Sahour, a town adjoining Bethlehem to attend a 5-day conference called Christ at the Checkpoint, sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College.

One of the buildings of Bethlehem Bible College.

Mural in the College building.

The theme of the conference was “Jesus Christ at the Center,” which is a marvelous theme, not just for a Christian conference, but for the whole church, and for any person’s life, for that matter.

Through various speakers and personal stories we learned about the current situation in Israel/Palestine; issues of the land, identity, justice and eschatology; the separation barrier (wall) erected by Israel on the border with Palestine; the realities of living in Palestine under military occupation by Israel; the complexity of the situation; the fact that some Israelis wish all the Palestinians would go away and leave the land to Israel only, and that other Israelis sympathize with the Palestinians and are working for a just peace; and the response of Palestinian evangelicals, which is always nonviolent because they take Jesus’ words about loving and blessing our enemies.

Separation barrier viewed from Bethlehem in Palestine.

There are 37 evangelical churches in Israel, 33 of them being in Nazareth and the north.

There are 43,000 Christians in Palestine, belonging to a number of different denominations. They comprise 1 percent of the population. There are 13 evangelical churches in Palestine, most of them in the Bethlehem area. Bethlehem is the only city in Palestine with a Christian mayor.

My burden for the evangelical church in America is that we will remember our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine, and not support the State of Israel to the neglect of the Palestinian church. For many of these believers, their families have been in Palestine since the Day of Pentecost.

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