One of the most covered up aspects of Israel is its systemic mistreatment of Christians from its earliest days
In 1967 Israel ordered the razing of Emmaus (the site where the Bible says the resurrected Jesus broke bread with two of his disciples)
After destroying Emmaus, Israeli soldiers forced the inhabitants to trek for days to find refuge. Four seniors and a one-year-old baby died along the way. Elderly and disabled residents who were unable to leave their homes had their houses demolished on top of them. Eighteen were killed, buried underneath the rubble
Israel then confiscated the land and built its famous Canada Park on the location of the obliterated village (see video below)
Meanwhile, Christian churches throughout the US (which gives Israel over $10 million per day) retell the Biblical story of Emmaus in inspirational sermons, unaware of the modern version… and of the victims in need of succor
And this wasn’t the first such incident…
By Alison Weir
Emmaus is a profoundly important place in Christianity. The Bible says that after Jesus’ death and resurrection, he appeared before two of his disciples while they were walking on the road to Emmaus, although at first they didn’t recognize him. When they arrived in Emmaus, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it in pieces, and gave it to them.
In 1967, after Israel launched its Six Day War, Israel expelled the inhabitants of Emmaus and obliterated almost all traces of the village, along with two other Palestinian villages nearby. This was part of the Israeli strategy, in the words of an Israeli historian, “to take over as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians as possible” (a strategy initiated in the 1948 war to establish the modern state of Israel and then to erase the Palestinian presence).
Israeli journalist Amira Hass describes Emmaus before it was leveled: “Schools, mosques, an ancient church, olive presses, paths to fields and orchards, bubbling streams, mountain air, sabra bushes, carob and olive and deciduous trees, harvested fields, graves, water cisterns.”
Israel then “brought in the bulldozers and destroyed and detonated and trampled. Not for the first time, not for the last. And the owners of all that beauty – the elderly, the children, the infants – heard and watched the explosions from a kilometer or two away.”
The villages’ inhabitants then “trekked for days through the mountains to Ramallah, leaving their belongings behind. Four seniors and a one-year-old baby died along the way. The elderly and disabled residents who were unable to leave their homes had their houses demolished on top of them. Eighteen were killed, buried underneath the rubble.”
In 1972 Israel built its popular Canada Park on the location, named after Jewish Canadians who had been persuaded to donate for the venture. Hass writes that the park “was designed to conceal and bury” its war crime.
Christians often focus on the Biblical Emmaus story
Today, Christian pastors often retell the story of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples in Emmaus.
The numerous paintings of this sacred event are featured on Christian websites around the country. The story is often used as an inspirational message to Christians, for example, to become “more committed to serving others.” Below are just a few of the numerous examples:
Yet, almost none of the sites featuring the Biblical story of Emmaus seem aware of the modern story, and of the people made homeless and in need of help – perhaps because so few know these facts. As author Grace Halsell wrote in a powerful essay, most Christians are unaware of what they don’t know about Israel. “They were indoctrinated by U.S. supporters of Israel in their own country and when they traveled to the Land of Christ most did so under Israeli sponsorship.”
A moving film recounting the facts about Emmaus, “Ritorno a Emmaus” (Return to Emmaus), was broadcast on Swiss Italian Television on May 29, 1987 but was not shown in the U.S. This is the first time it’s available in English:
Historian Tom Suarez reports that this was not the first such action in the area. Israeli soldiers had brutallt attacked one of the three villages in 1950 and 1951, quoting from his book “State of Terror”:
On the 2nd of November 1950, an Israeli patrol of twelve soldiers penetrated about 400 metres into the West Bank and discovered three children from Yalo village collecting wood. One, an eight-year old girl, ran away at the sight of the patrol, escaping with a bullet in her thigh. The soldiers dragged away the other two children, a brother and sister aged twelve and ten, just as their father and uncle rushed to the scene. As described by Glubb, the children were forced into a ditch “and there butchered by one soldier with a sten-gun, while the rest of the patrol looked on. All this was plainly visible to their parents, standing helpless on the border only a few hundred yards away”.
The boy was dead, with two bullets in his head and one in his shoulder. The girl—ten-year old Fakhriyeh Muhammad Ali Alayyan—had been shot seven times, but was still breathing. Once the soldiers moved on, her father carried her away, while the uncle carried the boy’s body. Fakhriyeh lived several hours, long enough to make a statement to the authorities.
This atrocity was unusual in that it was witnessed, documented, and hit the British press, saddling Israel with a public relations problem. Questions were raised in the House of Commons, and the British Zionist establishment’s denials convinced few. Both the MAC and UN observers confirmed the incident as do, we know these decades later, internal Israeli records.
Yalo was targeted again less than three months later, on 29 January (1951). About sixteen Israeli soldiers descended on the village, approaching simultaneously from two directions while attacking with gunfire and grenades. The Tulkarm area was invaded by Israeli soldiers on the night on 2 February, and the following day the IDF killed three Palestinians in an attack on Saffa.
Israel’s long history of anti-Christian actions
While Israeli violence against Muslims is somewhat familiar, many people are unaware that Israel has also perpetrated anti-Christian actions from its earliest days.
As I report in my book:
“During and after Israel’s founding 1947-49 war, Zionist forces attacked a number of Christian sites. Donald Neff, former Time Magazine Jerusalem bureau chief and author of five books on Israel-Palestine, reports in detail on Zionist attacks on Christian sites in May 1948, the month of Israel’s birth.
“Neff tells us that a group of Christian leaders complained that month that Zionists had killed and wounded hundreds of people, including children, refugees and clergy, at Christian churches and humanitarian institutions.
“For example, the group charged that “‘many children were killed or wounded’ by Jewish shells on the Convent of Orthodox Copts…; eight refugees were killed and about 120 wounded at the Orthodox Armenian Convent…; and that Father Pierre Somi, secretary to the Bishop, had been killed and two wounded at the Orthodox Syrian Church of St. Mark.”
“’The group’s statement said Arab forces had abided by their promise to respect Christian institutions, but that the Jews had forcefully occupied Christian structures and been indiscriminate in shelling churches,’ reports Neff. He quotes a Catholic priest: ‘Jewish soldiers broke down the doors of my church and robbed many precious and sacred objects. Then they threw the statues of Christ down into a nearby garden.’ [The priest] added that Jewish leaders had reassured that religious buildings would be respected, ‘but their deeds do not correspond to their words.’
“After Zionist soldiers invaded and looted a convent in Tiberias, the U.S. Consulate sent a bitter dispatch back to the State Department complaining of “the Jewish attitude in Jerusalem towards Christian institutions.”
“An American Christian Biblical scholar concurred, reporting that a friend in Jerusalem had been told, ‘When we get control you can take your dead Christ and go home.’” (For citations, go here.)
Israeli violence against Christians & desecration of churches
In the years following the creation of the state, Israeli violence against Christians and desecration of church property continued to be widespread. Neff describes some of the numerous attacks:
Churches were again desecrated during the 1967 war when Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, completing the occupation of all of Palestine. On July 21, 1967, the Reverend James L. Kelso, a former moderator of the United Presbyterian Church and long-time resident in Palestine, complained of extensive damage to churches adding: “So significant was this third Jewish war against the Arabs that one of the finest missionaries of the Near East called it ‘perhaps the most serious setback that Christendom has had since the fall of Constantinople in 1453.’”
Kelso continued: “How did Israel respect church property in the fighting…? They shot up the Episcopal Cathedral [in Jerusalem], just as they had done in 1948. They smashed down the Episcopal school for boys…The Israelis wrecked and looted the YMCA…They wrecked the big Lutheran hospital…The Lutheran center for cripples also suffered…”
Nancy Nolan, wife of a physician at the American University Hospital in Beirut, who was in Jerusalem during and after the fighting, charged that “while the Israeli authorities proclaim to the world that all religions will be respected and protected, and post notices identifying the Holy Places, Israeli soldiers and youths are throwing stink bombs in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
“The Church of St. Anne, whose crypt marks the birthplace of the Virgin Mary, has been severely damaged and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem also was damaged. The wanton killing of the Warden of the Garden Tomb followed by the shooting into the tomb itself, in an attempt to kill the warden’s wife, was another instance that we knew first-hand which illustrated the utter disregard shown by the occupation forces toward the Holy Places and the religious sensibilities of the people in Jordan and in the rest of the world.”
“The desecration of churches…includes smoking in the churches, littering the churches, taking dogs inside and entering in inappropriate manner of dress. Behavior such as this cannot be construed other than as a direct insult to the whole Christian world.”
Desecration has occurred not only in times of war. As recently as 1995, an Israeli soldier, Daniel Koren, 22, entered St. Anthony Catholic Church in Jaffa and went on a shooting rampage, firing more than 100 bullets in the altar and the cross above it but causing no injuries. Koren said his Judaic convictions forced him to destroy all physical images of God, and admitted that he had staged a prior attack in Jerusalem’s Gethsemane Church.
Perhaps the worst outbreak of organized desecration of Christian institutions came on Sept. 10, 1963, when hundreds of ultra-orthodox Jews simultaneously attacked Christian missions in Jaffa, Haifa and Jerusalem. (One has to say “perhaps because reporting on this sensitive subject in the U.S. media has been so poor over the decades.) At any rate, the attacks were a concerted effort to intimidate Christians in Israel by a religious vigilante group called Hever Peelei Hamahane Hatorati, the Society of Activists of the Torah Camp. In an attack on the Church of Scotland school in Jaffa, Christian children were beaten and considerable damage was caused to the school by at least 200 rampaging Jews.
Other attacks occurred at two nearby church schools, the Greek Catholic missionary school of St. Joseph and a Christian Brothers school. In Jerusalem, attacks occurred at the St. Joseph convent and the Finnish Lutheran mission school. In Haifa, the American-European Beth El Messianic Mission Children’s Hostel and School was attacked. No serious damage occurred in any of the attacks except at the Scotland school. More than 100 Jews were convicted in the attacks, none of them receiving more than small fines and suspended sentences.
The first half of the 1980s, with Likud governments in control, was a particularly active period for Jewish bigots. On Oct. 8, 1982, the Baptist Church in Jerusalem was burned down. Kerosene had been sprinkled on the church’s wooden chapel, constructed in 1933. Although no one was ever charged in the arson, the Baptist Center’s bookstore had been vandalized a dozen times in previous years, and Jews were suspected. When the Baptists sought to rebuild the church, Jews demonstrated against the project and the Jewish district planning commission refused to grant a building permit. In 1985, the Israeli Supreme Court advised the Baptists to leave the all-Jewish area.
On Christmas Day in 1983, a hotel in Tiberias where Christians held meetings was set afire, the latest in a series of attacks on a small group of about 50 Christians. Two Jews were arrested in the arson incident. Other attacks included stones thrown through windows at the hotel while the group was meeting and break-ins at the homes of members of the group. The anti-missionary group Yad Le’Achim complained that Christian missionaries were offering money, clothes, jewelry and tennis shoes to listen to Christian lectures.
Just over a fortnight later, on Jan. 11, 1984, suspected Jewish extremists stacked hymnals on a piano in a Christian prayer room in Jerusalem and set them afire. Also in the same week angry Jews protesting Christian proselytizing caused Beth Shalom, a Christian evangelical group, to withdraw its plans to build a multimillion-dollar hotel in Jerusalem. Beth Shalom took its action after about 150 Jews showed up at a city council meeting with placards reading “You can’t buy me” and “I didn’t immigrate to live next door to missionaries.” A leader of the protest, Rabbi Moshe Berlinger, compared Christian missionaries to Trojan horses.
Jewish infringements on Christian rights became so bad by 1990 that on Dec. 20 the leaders of Christian churches in Jerusalem took the extraordinary decision to restrict Christmas celebrations to protest “the continuing sad state of affairs in our land,” including encroachment by Israel on traditional Christian institutions. Among concerns expressed by the patriarchs and heads of churches were attempts by Jewish settlers to move into the Old City and an “erosion of the traditional rights and centuries-old privileges of the churches,” including imposition by Israel of municipal and state taxes on the churches.
The statement added: “We express our deep concern over new problems confronting the local church. They interfere with the proper functioning of our religious institutions, and we call upon the civil authorities in the country to safeguard our historic rights and status honored by all governments.”
Anti-Christian prejudice helps account for the fact that the number of Christian Palestinians in all of former Palestine had dwindled to only 50,000 in 1995. They no longer were a major presence in either Jerusalem or Ramallah, and they were fast losing their majority status in Bethlehem.
When Israel was established in 1948, the Palestinian Christian community had numbered 200,000, compared to roughly 600,000 Jews in Palestine at the time. Now the Christians are not even one percent of the population of Israel/Palestine. Of today’s estimated total 400,000 Christian Palestinians, most now are living in their own diaspora, mainly in the Americas. [Footnotes here]
Recent anti-Christian actions
This pattern has continued in recent years. A few examples can be found in these articles:
- Israeli guards called him “the Christian” to insult him, then beat him some more
- How Israeli Jews’ Fear of Christianity Turned Into Christian Hatred
- Israel is not as Christian-friendly as you think
- Orthodox Jewish youths burn New Testaments in Israel
- What Christians Don’t Know About Israel
- “We killed Jesus, we’re proud of it!” shout Israeli settlers trespassing on Palestinian property (video)
- Israeli TV show mocks crucifixion of Jesus (video)
- Israel severely restricts Easter celebration in Jerusalem
- More reports here.
These actions are enabled by the massive amount of Americans’ tax money that U.S. politicians, under the influence of the Israel lobby, expend on behalf if Israel. Some of the money is given directly to Israel, some is disbursed on items because they benefit Israel; the combined total is over $20 million per day.
The American public permits this misuse of their money for two reasons: (1) U.S. media rarely tell Americans how much of their money is being spent on Israel, and (2) Americans have received Israeli-centric reporting through the years, leaving them largely unaware of the type of Israeli actions described above.
An Israeli journalist explained in 1996: “We believe with absolute certitude that right now, with the White House in our hands, the Senate in our hands and The New York Times in our hands, the lives of others do not count the same way as our own.”
A principled minority of Israelis have long opposed this view, but their efforts to stop Israeli violence are undermined by the blank check US politicians give Israel, and the pro-Israel spin mainstream media provide no matter what it does. Until Americans demand that their elected representatives stop pandering to pro-Israel campaign donors, and push back on media disinformation, this will continue.
Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.
- New Advent: Emmaus
- What is Martin Luther King’s name doing in the ruins of a Palestinian village?
- Where Villages Stood: Israel’s Continuing Violations of International Law in Occupied Latroun, 1967-2007
- The Association For Reconstruction Of Emmaus
- Canada Park: An Example of Ethnic Cleansing
- Canada “Park” in Palestine. Part 1 (video)
- Restless Park: On the Latrun villages and Zochrot
- My Yalu story: One day, exiles will return to the village Israel destroyed
- Donald Neff: a Journalist Erased From History for Reporting on Palestine
- No, the Bible doesn’t command Christians to “stand with Israel”