Palestinian Christians beside Muslims in Intifada
Nov. 4, 2000

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.

Cacophony of sounds

Some days, the cacophony 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

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.