“You are anti-Semitic,” the gentleman said when I told him that the reason for Christian emigration from Bethlehem was not only due to Islamic pressure but also to the occupation and the economic situation.
In 1948, my grandparents lived in Jaffa. One day, my grandpa came home and told my grandma to get all the children, leave everything and run because the Israeli Hagana (an underground, terrorist movement) were on their way, killing people in villages.
My family became refugees, half of them settling in Beit Sahour (south of Bethlehem) and the rest in Amman. I am 44 years old, and the first time I got to meet a few of my cousins was in 1993 after the Clinton peace talks.
But since those talks, more Palestinian land has been confiscated in order to build roads for Israeli settlers and to start new settlements in Palestinian areas.
I am an evangelical Christian Palestinian. I love the Lord and have dedicated my life to serving him. I believe in reconciliation among the believers and the need to build bridges with my brothers and sisters on the Israeli side.
I used to think this would be easy, being a command from the Lord to all his children, but then I met a Christian Zionist.
He ignored my existence. He told me that I was a Gentile and, therefore, a second-class believer, and that I was not one of the chosen.
I find it very hard that evangelical Christians are willing to justify what Israel is doing as part of God’s plan.
Not only do they justify it, but also they support, encourage and fund the Israeli government in building settlements and bringing more Israeli Jews onto our land.
Do these Christians not understand that there are Palestinian Christians who have lived in the land for thousands of years and whose families and lives have deep roots in Palestine?
I wonder if Christians who support Israel in this way realize that I, because I am a Palestinian, am not allowed to travel to Jerusalem or any part of Israel?
I wonder if they realize that my own brother, now living in the U.S., is never allowed to return to live in his home because the Israeli authorities have denied him travel documents?
Or that even when our father was having serious heart surgery, he had to beg, pray and plead to be allowed to cross into Palestine?
My question to my Christian Zionist brothers and sisters is this: What would you have me and my family do?
We live in this land. We have been here for hundreds of years, and we have no place else to go.
Has God abandoned us? Are we a stumbling block to God’s plan?
Tanas Alqassis is regional manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa at the Church of England mission agency CMS and has also worked for World Vision in his native Palestine and in Romania. A version of this column first appeared in Mission Catalyst, a magazine for Christian thought leaders produced by BMS World Mission, and is used with permission.