…a 2,000-year-old tradition that began with those who heard Jesus speak in Jerusalem may end soon. Palestinian Christians are leaving the Holy Land because of the pressure of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
DETROIT â€“ They descend from the earliest Christians, the converts who gathered to hear the teachings of Jesus, St. Paul and St. Peter.
But a 2,000-year-old tradition that began with those who heard Jesus speak in Jerusalem may end soon. Palestinian Christians are leaving the Holy Land because of the pressure of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
“We want a Christian presence in the Holy Land for the new millennium,” said Fr. Emil Salayta of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem. “The evacuation of Palestinians is forcing the Christian church out of the Holy Land. This is a tragedy for us.”
Salayta, who visited Metro Detroit on Thursday, is on a monthlong tour of churches in the United States to rally support for Palestinian Christian population in Israel and the West Bank has dwindled since the birth of Israel in 1948, when 70,000 of them left the area.
“This is still happening,” Salayta said. He said there are now 170,000 Christians among a population of about seven million in Israel and the West Bank.
In Jerusalem, 10,000 Christians live in the city of 600,000 â€“ the lowest number of Christians in the city since the first century, he said.
“And they are still evacuating,” said Alex Kratz, of the St. Michael Friary in Southfield.
Salayta is part of an effort that included the Vatican to build relationships between U.S. churches and their Palestinian counterparts. A group called The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation has been formed to help support Christianity in the West Bank.
“We donâ€™t have the resources to survive alone,” Salayta said.
He also wants members of U.S. churches who make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to meet with their Palestinian counterparts.