Arab Israeli Believers Share An ‘Identity Crisis’ And Prayers For Peace

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Sandro Jadon was standing in the birthplace of Christ when he got the “Tzevaa Adom” alert on his phone.

That’s Hebrew for “the color red” — a “red alert” notice on the messaging app Telegram. Hamas was firing rockets from Gaza.

At first, the Arab Israeli tour guide and member of the Nazareth Church of Christ didn’t think much of it. 

“This happens at least once every two years,” he said, equating the attack with tornado season in Oklahoma. Israel’s powerful “Iron Dome” system intercepts most rockets. “We live under a shield.”

But Jadon was in Bethlehem, a site of Christian pilgrimage in an area of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The tourist in his care was praying inside the Church of the Nativity.

Bethlehem is “usually very, very safe,” Jadon said, but crossing the border to get back home might be difficult if the situation were to escalate.

He asked a local what was going on. The man showed him his cell phone, which played videos of Hamas militants attacking — even beheading — people at a music festival. “Look how we shot them. Look how we killed them,” the man said.

“I’m, like, boiling … and scared,” Jadon told The Christian Chronicle as he recalled the bloody Saturday when the latest conflict began in his homeland. 

Jadon remained calm and nodded, grimly, so that the man would not suspect “that I don’t agree with him,” he said. “I want safety for all innocent civilians.” Meanwhile, “there are rockets being intercepted above our heads — not aimed at Bethlehem, (but) going toward Jerusalem, Israeli territory.”

As a tour guide in Israel, Jadon is part of a union. He called his representative, who connected him with an Israeli army mediator. The mediator advised Jadon to return with his client to Israeli territory. The border was shut when they arrived, so Jadon called again. 

“After two or three minutes, I heard a screeching sound as the gate opened,” he said. He told the mediator about other tourist groups in Palestinian territory so that they, too, could exit. 

‘They hate religion — and I don’t blame them’

Back in Nazareth, Jadon’s father, Maurice, had prepared a Sunday sermon on following Christ by keeping his teachings, including “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). About 30 miles away is the site where Jesus is believed to have spoken those words more than 2,000 years ago — the Mount of Beatitudes, also a tourist site.

Despite the immediate relevance of the message, Maurice Jadon didn’t deliver the sermon, his son said. Instead, the small congregation of believers, most of them Arab Israelis, spent their time together in fervent prayer — for their people, for their country and for all of the innocents trapped in the conflict.

In addition to the physical danger, the war is wreaking havoc on the country’s tourism industry. All of Jadon’s October tours are canceled, and he stands to lose some $12,000 in income between now and year’s end. Many of his fellow Israelis, including Christians, face similar hardships.

“We’re a minority within a minority within a minority,” Sandro Jadon said. About 182,000 people, 1.9% of Israel’s population, claim Christianity as their faith. Most of those are Greek Orthodox or Catholic. Less than 7% of Israel’s Arab population identifies itself as Christian.

As a result, Arab Israeli Christians face an “identity crisis” when conflicts arise, Jadon said.

“I am Palestinian in blood,” he said. “I want to see them in statehood, spending that money they receive from the world on infrastructure, not to teach hate. … I would love to see peace here.”

At the same time, he’s thankful for the protection that his nation’s military provides.

“We are for Israel to protect its citizens — because we are its citizens — and we appreciate that,” he said. “We love them. We admire them. We are proud to be Arab Israelis.”

Extremism on both sides — in the form of militant Islam and militant Zionism — has driven many who live in the Holy Land away from all that is holy.

“They hate religion — and I don’t blame them,” Jadon said. “Those extreme religions are of the world, not of God.”

He prays that people “will see in our religion — and I don’t like to call it our religion, followers of Christ. … I hope they see the difference between radical religious people that are killing in the name of God and our God, our Christ, the Lord’s church.”

A tourism client of Sandro Jadon has set up a GoFundMe page to help him recoup income lost due to cancellations. Visit the site to contribute or for more information.

Healing Hands International, a ministry associated with Churches of Christ, is collecting funds for Israel relief. See the ministry’s Israel response page.

This piece is republished from The Christian Chronicle with permission.





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