Chrisitans in Israel

Subj: Letter to the Catholic Herald
Date: 12/6/2001 1:59:42 PM Pacific Standard Time

December 6, 2001

The Catholic Herald
Sacramento, California

To the Editor, (by E-mail)

With reference to the news item in the December 1 issue of the Catholic Herald "Israeli Supreme Court orders government to pay Catholic villagers", author Charles M. Sennott carries a detailed description of the background to this story in his just published book "The Body and The Blood". Mr. Sennott is the Chief European correspondent for the Boston Globe. His book seeks to understand why Christianity is disappearing where the faith began.
Mr. Sennott describes that the Arab Palestinian Christian villages of Ikrit and Biram, located close to Nazareth, were occupied peacefully by the Israeli Army on October 29, 1948, about 6 months after the state of Israel was established. Two weeks later the soldiers were given orders that the villagers were to be evicted, and they began removing families from their homes. One Israeli commander told the villagers that they would be shot if they did not leave within twenty four hours. The villagers were also told that they would be allowed to return in two weeks. Although the villagers were Israeli citizens they were not allowed to return. They refused to leave the country as many other Christian and Moslem Palestinians had done, and took their case to the military commissioner and later to the Israeli courts.
Mr. Sennott continues to explain that in 1949 Israel constructed a government funded Kibbutz on 100 acres that surrounded the village of Biram. The Israeli High Court ruled in favor of the villagers of Ikrit. On Christmas Eve 1951, the Israeli Air Force carried out an aerial bombardment of Ikrit, leveling the entire village except for a small stone church. On September 16, 1953, the villagers of Biram prevailed in the Israeli High Court. The army declared the area a closed military zone and did not allow the villagers to return. The next day the Israeli Air Force destroyed the village, except for two small churches. In early 1960s the Israeli government built another Kibbutz in Biram on an additional 500 acres of the village lands. In 1999 an Israeli High Court judge ruled that the families be given only 5 percent of their village lands to build new homes. None of these court orders have been carried out.
I am not sure what the most recent Israeli High Court decision will mean. It is doubtful that these Christian Israeli citizens will ever regain what has been theirs for many centuries. Eventually many will immigrate to the US, Canada or Australia, like other Palestinian Christians have done.
This explains, in part, the diminishing number of Original Christians in the Holy Land, usually referred to as "the living Stones". A better awareness of this fact by the US Catholic and main stream Christian community is necessary, and more active and vocal support is needed otherwise the Christian presence in the Holy Land will cease to exist in the not too distant future.

Albert Hazbun
El Dorado Hills

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