Palestinian and Arab-Israeli Christians: A Primer

Palestinian and Arab-Israeli Christian society is complex: many different Christian denominations are represented in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and Christians are a minority within the Arab minority. For this reason, they are faced with unique issues of identity. 

In our Christmas Special, we'll discuss the identity, culture, history and political configuration of Palestinian and Arab-Israeli Christians.

A good primer on the subject is "Christians in Israel: A Complex Question of Identity," by Lars Hansel. Here are some highlights:

"Although their religious freedom is guaranteed, local Christian Arabs are faced with two challenges relating to their situation as a dual minority. On the one hand they are part of the Arab sector in Israel and hence bound up in the tense and complex relations between the Jewish majority and Arab minority. Secondly, as Christians they are a minority within the Arab sector and exposed to increasing socioeconomic and religious pressure from the Muslim majority." (p. 34)

"Many different Christian denominations are represented in Israel, making it a microcosm of the Christian world." (p. 35)

"As ethnic Arabs they have lived in their homeland for centuries and are bound up in the complex relationship between Arabs and Jews in Israel. As  Palestinians they identify with the development of a national Palestinian identity and as such are part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As  Israeli citizens they are part of the State of Israel, which in its symbolism and constitution is a democratic Jewish state. As Christians they are part of the many Christian denominations and international churches which are represented in Israel, affording them special contacts and relationships, particularly with the West." (p. 41)

Hansel goes on to discuss religious identity, Arab national identity, socioeconomic status, and Christian-Jewish and Christian-Muslim relations. 

If you want to learn more about the social history of Palestinian and Arab-Israeli Christians, check out "Continuity and Change in Communal Autonomy: The Christian Communal Organizations in Jerusalem 1948-80" by Daphne Tsimhoni, whom we'll be interviewing later this month. 


Diwaniyya Contributor