JERUSALEM (AP) -- The head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land warned in an interview that the rise of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government is making life difficult for Christians in the birthplace of Christianity.
Pierbattista Pizzaballa, an influential Latin American patriarch appointed by the Vatican, told The Associated Press that the region's 2,000-year-old Christian community is under increasing attack and that the most right-wing government in Israel's history has fueled a campaign to harass priests and undermine religious faith.. Extremist means accelerated. .
Anti-Christian incidents have increased as Israel's settler movement, fueled by allies in the government, appears to have seized the opportunity to expand its aims in the disputed capital.
"The frequency of these attacks, the aggression, has become something new," Pisabala said on Easter from his office hidden in a limestone passage in the Christian quarter of the Old Town. "These people feel protected... the current cultural and political climate can justify or condone acts against Christians."
Pizzaballa's concerns appear to undermine Israel's unequivocal commitment to religious freedom, enshrined in its founding declaration 75 years ago. The Israeli government emphasizes that its priority is religious freedom and ties with churches that have strong ties abroad.
"Israel's commitment to religious freedom has always been important to us," said Tanya Berg-Rafaeli, head of the World Religions Department at Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "This applies to all religions and all minorities who have free access to holy places."
But Christians say they believe authorities are failing to protect their sites from targeted attacks. Tensions are risingThe Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa mosqueThe group angered Muslims and sparked regional clashes last week.
For Christians, Jerusalem is the place where Jesus was crucified and resurrected. For the Jewish people, it was the ancient capital and seat of the two biblical Jewish temples. For Muslims, this is where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Contempt for the small number of Christians in the bustling old city is nothing new,intensive testIt was annexed by the Israeli government in 1967. Many Christians feel caught between Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians.
But now Netanyahu's far-right government includes settler leaders in key roles -- such asMinister of Finance Bezalel SmotrichiMinister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, has been convicted since 2007 of inciting anti-Arab racism and supporting Jewish militants.
Their influence strengthens Israeli settlers in their efforts to consolidate Jewish control over the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, which worries church leaders who see such efforts -- including government plans to create a national park on the Mount of Olives -- as a threat to the Christian presence in the Holy City. The Palestinians claim that East Jerusalem is the capital of the state they hope to establish.
"The right wants to Judaize the Old City and other countries and we feel that nothing can stop them now," said Father Don Binder, a priest at St. George's Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem, the main obstacle. "
The roughly 15,000 Christians in Jerusalem today, most of them Palestinians, once numbered 27,000 — many of this traditionally prosperous group driven by hardship after the 1967 Middle East war.migrant.
Now 2023 will be the worst year for Christians in a decade, said Yusef Daher of the Inter-Church Center, an organization that coordinates among denominations.
Physical attacks and harassment of priests often go unreported, the center said. It recorded at least seven cases of serious vandalism to church property from January to mid-March — a sharp increase from the six cases of anti-Christianity recorded in all of 2022. Church leaders blamed most of the incidents on Israeli extremists and said they feared more would increase.
"This escalation will bring more and more violence," Pisabala said. "It will create a situation that is very difficult to fix."
In March, an Israeli couple broke into the cathedral next to the Garden of Gethsemane, where the Virgin Mary is said to be buried. Before the arrest, they attacked the priest with a metal rod.
In February, a devout American Jew pulled a 10-foot statue of Christ from its plinth, smashed it on the floor and punched him in the face dozens of times at the Church of the Scourge on Passion Avenue, believing that Jesus was dragging his cross to his cross next to the church. "There will be no idols in the holy city of Jerusalem!" cried.
Armenians discover hateful graffiti on the walls of the monastery. Priests of all denominations said they were followed, spat on and beaten on the way to church. in January,Pious Jews tear down and destroy 30 gravesStone crosses are marked in the city's historic Christian cemeteries. Two teenagers were arrested and charged with causing vandalism and insulting religion.
But Christians claim that Israeli police do not take most of the attacks seriously. In one case, George Kahkejian, 25, said he was beaten when a group of Jewish settlers climbed into his Armenian Christian monastery earlier this year to tear down the flag, arrest and detain people for 17 hours. Police had no immediate comment.
Father Aghan Gogchian, rector of the Armenian Patriarchate, complained: "We see that most incidents in our region go unpunished." He expressed dismay at the authorities' frequent insistence that cases of blasphemy and harassment do not stem from religious hatred, but from mental illness.
Israeli police said they "thoroughly investigated (the incident) regardless of their origin or religion" and "quickly arrested them." the city of Jerusalem isIncreased security at the upcoming Orthodox Easter servicesA new police department has been established to deal with religiously motivated threats, said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahum.
Most senior Israeli officials remain silent on the vandalism, while the government takes action - including legislationcriminalization of conversion to Christianityand they are pushing plans to turn the Mount of Olives into a national park - sparking outrage in the Holy Land and beyond.
Under pressure from angry evangelical Christians in the United States, Netanyahu has vowed to block the bill from being moved. Among Israel's staunchest supporters, evangelicals see the Jewish state as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
Meanwhile, Jerusalem officials have confirmed they are moving ahead with plans for the controversial Mount of Olives zone - a holy site that is home to dozens of historic churches. Christian leaders worry that the parks will stunt their growth and encroach on their land. Jewish settlements, home to more than 200,000 Israelis, surround the Old City.
Israel's national park authority pledged its support to the church and said it wanted the park to "keep valuable areas open."
Pizzaballa pushed back. "It's a seizure," he said.
Rising tensions within the community came to a head during the Orthodox Easter service, as Israeli police announced strict quotas for thousands of pilgrims who want to attend the "holy fire" ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Authorities canceled Saturday's service, citing safety concerns over torches falling as they passed through the large crowd at the church1,800 peopleThe priest who allegedly saw the police holding the door open for Jews celebrating Passover this EasterReligious discrimination Wednesday.
These days, Sani Ibrahim Azar, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, says he struggles to find answers when his congregation asks them why they pay the terrible price of living in the Holy Land.
"There are things that make us fear for our existence," he said. But if there is no hope, more and more of us will leave.
Why did Christians go to the Holy Land? ›
For the Christian, the Holy Land is birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth and the site of his ministry; for the Moslem, Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock marks the spot from which the Prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to heaven.Which country is known as the Holy Land? ›
Jews commonly refer to the Land of Israel as "The Holy Land" (Hebrew: אֶרֶץ הַקוֹדֵשׁ Eretz HaKodesh).Which religion has the largest number of followers in Israel? ›
Judaism. Most citizens in the State of Israel are Jewish. As of 2022, Jews made up 73.6% percent of the population.Which religion believes that Israel is their Holy Land? ›
The modern Jewish state is not only the “Promised Land” for Jews, but the only country in the world where they form a majority of the population. For Christians, Israel is the “Holy Land,” because it is the place where Jesus' life and death unfolded.What do Christians do in the Holy Land? ›
This belief is called the Atonement. Many Christians believe that undertaking a pilgrimage to Jerusalem can bring them closer to the experience of Jesus as he approached his death. Christians believe that this will help them to develop spiritually and become closer to God.Why are there so few Christians in the Holy Land? ›
However, few Christians now live in the region, compared to Muslims and Jews. This is mainly because Islam displaced Christianity throughout the Middle East, and the rise of modern Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel has seen millions of Jews emigrate to Israel.What city is considered the most holy place on earth? ›
1. Jerusalem. Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities on the planet. It is of massive spiritual significance to three of the world's biggest religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - and consequently has endured a war-torn history, with Israel and Palestine both claiming it as their capital.Who is God's chosen country? ›
If you've read the story of the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament, you know that it tells the story of God's interaction with one particular nation, Israel. The Hebrew Scriptures are full of language about Israel's special status as God's chosen nation.Where is the promised land today? ›
Boundaries of the 'Promised Land' given by Jerome c.400
Under the name Palestine, we comprehend the small country formerly inhabited by the Israelites, and which is today part of Acre and Damascus pachalics. It stretched between 31 and 33° N. latitude and between 32 and 35° degrees E.
Modern growth. Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. In 1990, 1.1 billion people were Muslims, while in 2010, 1.6 billion people were Muslims.
What is the number one religion in the world? ›
Christianity. The world's largest religion, Christianity, is practiced by about 2.4 billion people. The country with the highest number of practicing Christians is the United States, with a Christian population of 253 million.What is the first religion in the world? ›
Hinduism is the world's oldest religion, according to many scholars, with roots and customs dating back more than 4,000 years. Today, with more than 1 billion followers, Hinduism is the third-largest religion behind Christianity and Islam. Roughly 94 percent of the world's Hindus live in India.What religion was Jesus? ›
He was born of a Jewish mother, in Galilee, a Jewish part of the world. All of his friends, associates, colleagues, disciples, all of them were Jews. He regularly worshipped in Jewish communal worship, what we call synagogues. He preached from Jewish text, from the Bible.Which religion belongs to Russia? ›
Today Russian Orthodoxy is the country's largest religious denomination, representing more than half of all adherents.Is Israel God's land? ›
Jewish religious belief defines the land as where Jewish religious law prevailed and excludes territory where it was not applied. It holds that the area is a God-given inheritance of the Jewish people based on the Torah, particularly the books of Genesis and Exodus, as well as on the later Prophets.Should Christians visit the Holy Land? ›
Not only is Israel considered Christianity's place of birth, but it helps Christians connect with their religion which is why it is vital for any Christian to make at least one trip to Israel in their lifetime. Visiting the Holy Land does help one visualize and reimagine the events that they read in the bible.Why do Christians go to Jerusalem? ›
Jerusalem is mostly important to Christianity because it is where Jesus Christ was brought occasionally as a child, preached to the poor in his adult life, crucified at the end of his life, and resurrected by God.Is it safe in the Holy Land? ›
Crime is relatively low in Israel, according to John Gobbels, chief operating officer for Medjet, an air medical transport membership program for travelers. "Most of the tourist locations like Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Eilat and the Dead Sea are considered quite safe," he says.What country has the most Christians? ›
The United States has the largest Christian population in the world, followed by Brazil, Mexico, Russia, and the Philippines.Why is the Holy Land closing? ›
Despite being well attended from 1979 until 1989, the park abruptly closed amid the ministry's legal problems and filed for bankruptcy. Today, the park's name is inseparable from the Bakkers' televangelism scandals.
What happened to the Christians in Jerusalem? ›
Fearing that the Eastern Christians had been conspiring with approaching crusaders, the Muslim authorities of Jerusalem massacred much of the city's Christian population, seeing the fortunate escape the city in terror.What is the holiest place in Bible? ›
The Holy of Holies was the inner sanctuary within the Tabernacle and Temple in Jerusalem when Solomon's Temple and the Second Temple were standing.What is the most holy city in USA? ›
For this reason, Charleston earned the nickname of "Holy City" as it was known for its tolerance for all religions and it numerous historic churches. Charleston is home to the Circular Congregational Church, which is one of the oldest congregations in the South.Where is the holiest Church in the world? ›
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a church in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.What is God's own country in America? ›
It is currently used to describe South Boston. It was also used by the Confederate army to describe parts of Tennessee in the 1860s. The phrase was also used to describe California in the 1860s, and by Clement Laird Vallandigham to describe the land of the Mississippi plains.Where is God's country USA? ›
What's certain is that when you're in the state, awed by the magnificent scenery, it's hard to dispute – Colorado is God's Country. Of all the beguiling spots in Colorado, Aspen has long been considered one of the most spectacularly beautiful. It's also one of the most difficult areas to reach.Why did God not want to give Israel a king? ›
Through Samuel, the Lord warned the people that such a king would come at a high cost: he would draft their sons to plant his fields and make war for his selfish ambitions, he would make their daughters menial laborers in his kitchens for his parties, and he would tax everything they owned to support himself and his ...Who owns the promised land today? ›
The Promised Land
Today, many Jews believe that the land now known as Israel belongs to Jews in fulfilment of God's covenant with Abraham to give the Jewish people a Promised Land. This has often led to conflict both within and outside the religion.
The land known as Canaan was situated in the territory of the southern Levant, which today encompasses Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, and the southern portions of Syria and Lebanon.Is America the promised land? ›
Many early colonists and immigrants viewed America as the “promised land.” In the wake of brutal religious conflicts in Europe in the 1600s, America represented a safe haven for the religiously oppressed and exiled.
Is Christianity increasing or decreasing? ›
America's Christian majority is shrinking, and could dip below 50% by 2070 : NPR. America's Christian majority is shrinking, and could dip below 50% by 2070 The U.S.'s Christian majority has been shrinking for decades. A Pew Research Center study shows that as of 2020, about 64% of Americans identify as Christian.Where is Christianity growing the fastest? ›
Christianity has been estimated to be growing rapidly in South America, Africa, and Asia. In Africa, for instance, in 1900, there were only 8.7 million adherents of Christianity; now there are 390 million, and it is expected that by 2025 there will be 600 million Christians in Africa.What will be the largest religion in 2050? ›
Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current trends continue, by 2050 … The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.What is true religion according to the Bible? ›
In short, James tells us that true religion is a devotion to God, demonstrated by love and compassion for fellowmen, coupled with unworldliness. Such a statement seems too simple to be sufficient, but in its simplicity it speaks an important truth.Which religion came last in the world? ›
Last but not least in our timeline of world religions is Sikhism. Around 500 years ago the Sikh faith was founded in Punjab, South Asia,by a man called Guru Nanak.What is the biggest religion in the US? ›
The most popular religion in the U.S. is Christianity, comprising the majority of the population (73.7% of adults in 2016), with the majority of American Christians belonging to a Protestant denomination or a Protestant offshoot (such as Mormonism or the Jehovah's Witnesses.)What was the main religion before Christianity? ›
Before Christianization (the spread of Christianity): Historical polytheism (the worship of or belief in multiple deities) Historical paganism (denoting various non-Abrahamic religions)Which is older Islam or Christianity? ›
Christianity developed out of Second Temple Judaism in the 1st century CE. It is founded on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and those who follow it are called Christians. Islam developed in the 7th century CE.Who is the oldest known God? ›
Inanna is among the oldest deities whose names are recorded in ancient Sumer. She is listed among the earliest seven divine powers: Anu, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Nanna, Utu, and Inanna. These seven would form the basis for many of the characteristics of the gods who followed.What religion was Adam and Eve? ›
Adam and Eve, in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, the original human couple, parents of the human race.
What was Jesus real name? ›
Jesus' name in Hebrew was “Yeshua” which translates to English as Joshua.What religion was Moses? ›
One of Judaism's great figures is the man called Moshe Rabbenu ('Moses our teacher') in Hebrew. The first five books of the Bible are traditionally ascribed to him. Moses is the channel between God and the Hebrews, through whom the Hebrews received a basic charter for living as God's people.What religion is Ukrainian? ›
72% of the population avowed fidelity to an Eastern Orthodox Church: 54% of Ukrainians proclaimed adherence to the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine; 14% identified as Orthodox Christian without specifying a church affiliation; 4% associated with the Moscow Patriarchate.What was the religion in Russia before Christianity? ›
Key Takeaways: Religion in Russia
Russia was pagan until the tenth century, when it adopted Christianity as a way to have a united religion. Pagan beliefs have survived alongside Christianity.
Christianity in Russia is the most widely professed religion in the country. The largest tradition is the Russian Orthodox Church. According to official sources, there are 170 eparchies of the Russian Orthodox Church, 145 of which are grouped in metropolitanates.What was God's name in the Land of Israel? ›
Yahweh, name for the God of the Israelites, representing the biblical pronunciation of “YHWH,” the Hebrew name revealed to Moses in the book of Exodus.Why Israel is chosen by God? ›
In the view of some, Israel was chosen by God out of unmerited, unrequited love. As Rabbi Akibah put it: Beloved are Israel for they are called children of the All-present, as it is said, "You are children unto the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 14:1).What was Israel's name before God changed it? ›
In response, God changed Jacob's name to Israel, meaning 'let God prevail. ' God then promised Israel that all the blessings that had been pronounced upon Abraham's head would also be his” (Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” Oct.Why do we go to a holy place? ›
Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim.Why did Christians travel to Jerusalem? ›
For Christians, Jerusalem is also the place where Jesus preached, died and was resurrected. Many also see the city as central to an imminent Second Coming of Jesus. Jerusalem is now a major pilgrimage site for Christians from around the world.
Why did they want the Holy Land? ›
As part of the Crusades, Christians sought to take back the Holy Land and put it under their control in order to secure the land and Christian access to the important holy sites that existed there.What are the three religions in Jerusalem? ›
3—All of Jerusalem is holy to three religions—Christian, Jewish and Moslem, and some of the religious sites in and around the Holy City are shared by two or even all three of the religions.What the Bible says about the most holy place? ›
In the Authorized King James Version, "Holy of Holies" is always translated as "Most Holy Place". This is in keeping with the intention of the Hebrew idiom to express the utmost degree of holiness. Thus, the name "Most Holy Place" was used to refer to the "Holy of Holies" in many English documents.Where in the Bible does it say entering the Holy Place? ›
Hebrews 9 tells us that Jesus entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. Now we enter the same way, through His precious blood, for it made a way for us.What is the spiritual meaning of holy place? ›
: a place made sacred by association : shrine. specifically : one of various places (as of the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus) of religious pilgrimage.Why do people want to visit Israel? ›
When you think of travelling the Mediterranean often Greece, Croatia or Italy come to mind, but why not visit Israel? Israel's fascinating history, amazing beaches, delicious hummus and non-stop party nightlife, all make it a must-see destination.Why did Jesus go to Jerusalem before he was crucified? ›
According to the Gospels, Jesus came to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover and entered the city riding a donkey. He was greeted by a crowd acclaiming him by waving palm branches and laying cloaks on the ground to honor him.Why do Jews go to Jerusalem 3 times a year? ›
Traditionally, Jewish families were supposed to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate three feasts during the year. Because of this requirement to travel to Jerusalem, these three festivals became known as the shalosh regalim (three pilgrimage festivals).Why did Moses not go to Holy Land? ›
we're back at Kadesh, and this time Moses rebels and is forbidden to enter the land because of his unbelief in God's word.Who started the Holy Land? ›
The park had its origin in a dream of Marvin Rosenthal, a Jew of Russian origin who became a Baptist pastor, founder of the missionary organization Zion's Hope, who bought land in Orlando in 1989.