So what would a Palestinian state next door to the Jewish state look like? This is one of the easiest of exercises for your Middle East experts! Simply take a look at Gaza.
When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cleared the Gaza Strip of every last Jewish citizen and Israeli soldier in 2005, the hope was that the Gazans would build themselves a strong economy and create a government that would bring happiness and well-being to its 1.8 million inhabitants. Instead, the Palestinian Authority (PA), corrupt through and through, put billions of dollars in their own pockets—aid that had poured into the region from the U.S., the UN, the EU and even some from Arab countries.
With one of the most beautiful beach areas anywhere, instead of developing a tourist industry, the PA fell back onto their core DNA malady of war-to-the-death against Jews, together with the Islamic predisposition for tin-horn dictatorships.
In fact, if you want to predict what kind of Palestinian state would appear in the West Bank, just look at all of the 22 Arab Muslim countries. The rich ones have oil, terrorists and Sharia law. The poor have terrorists and Sharia. Even when more moderate leaders are in power, such as King Abdullah in Jordan and President al-Sisi in Egypt, their citizens, fed from the cradle on Islamic hatred towards Jews, Christians—and Sunnis if you are Shia, or Shiites if you are Sunni—seemingly only a dictator can handle such a culture. Think Iraq. Think Syria. Think Libya.
Western democracies have yet to learn a critical lesson: elections do not a democracy make. As long as the executive, legislative and judicial branches are under one roof, elections can only create tyrannical dictatorships.
But if the UN and the Western world have their way, another failed Islamic state will rise up on the mountains of Judea and Samaria, overlooking Israel’s population centers. Their “resistance forces” will perch themselves on the hills and mountains overlooking Israel’s citizens up and down the entire coastal plain.
We would have Gaza II pitching rockets and more into Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa—and all the cities in between—any time of the day or night.
WHAT ABOUT CHRISTIAN ARABS?
But one conversation I have never yet heard. Not a single world leader has publically contemplated what would happen to the Arab Christians in yet another Muslim regime. To be more specific, what would happen to the born-again evangelical Arabs who have been commanded by Yeshua Himself to preach the Gospel to every creature?
Possibly the traditional Christians—Orthodox, Catholic and others—that are not evangelical, and who basically keep to themselves, might survive. Maybe yes. Maybe no. Such ancient communities were able to survive as second-class citizens in places like Syria—until the war broke out. Now there are endless accounts of Christian women and children who have been singled out for rape and murder in Syria.
Even in countries like Egypt, though 10% are ethnic Coptic Christians (those born into that Christian community receive their identity from birth), who are not known to be actively evangelizing in their own community, let alone their Muslim neighbors, their lives are nevertheless in constant danger. With a moderate Egyptian ruler fighting to control Islamic passions, still, local Muslim gangs burn down churches and murder Christians, as happened a few days ago with 44 dead and a hundred wounded outside their Coptic church on Palm Sunday. Evangelical born-again Christians are in even more danger. Muslims just keep doing what comes naturally—persecuting Christians.
THE CHURCH IN GAZA, THE WEST BANK AND ISRAEL
Some years ago, Bro. Andrew of God’s Smuggler fame visited Gaza and said, “There is a church in Gaza. But I think it is dying.” Indeed. It is all but dead. Hamas has virtually destroyed the Christian community in the Gaza Strip.
The West Bank has not fared much better. “In 1950, Bethlehem and the nearby villages were 86% Christian. Today, the Christian population has dropped to just 12%. The trend is echoed across the West Bank. In the 1970’s, Christians made up 5% of the population. Today, they are just 2%.” (www.timesofisrael.com)
A hundred years ago, Lebanon was 78% Christian. Today they are a mere 34%, and much of the country’s recent history is a sad series of terrible wars and terrorism, with Hezbollah controlling a large portion of the country, as Muslims fight to take complete control of the nation. (www.pewresearch.org)
In Israel, however, the Arab Christian population has held steady with demographic growth. Today there are 164,700 Christians in Israel, about 2% of the population, a similar ratio to past decades. Ibid.
Recent Pew Research Center polls show Christians faced religious harassment in more countries in the Middle East and [Muslim Arab] North Africa than any other region of the world. (www.dailymail.co.uk)
Today, in Iraq and Syria, Christians face enslavement, torture, massacres and crucifixion at the hands of ISIS. ISIS marks Christian houses with an “N”—for Nazarene—to single out their victims.
But Islamic persecution doesn’t end there: Christian women and children who managed to escape to Europe are now finding themselves suffering rape and persecution on a daily basis in the migrant centers of Germany and other European countries. The police say there is nothing they can do about it as it is happening everywhere there are Muslim camps. Workers in the refugee camps tell the press the Muslim migrants display ‘pure hatred’ of Christians. (www.huffingtonpost.com)
THE PARTNERSHIP OF MAOZ
Right now Maoz is working with four Arab ministries, three ministering to both ethnic Christians and Muslims under the Palestinian Authorities’ rule. We cannot show you their faces. We can’t give you the names of the places where they are ministering; their lives are in danger. And I emphasize, this is under the rule of the Palestinian Authority which is not nearly as brutal as Hamas. Barbarian, no. Corrupt, yes.
These are the same leaders that once ruled Gaza. The Gazan population, sick of the corruption, voted Hamas into power. Most of the opinion polls I have seen clearly state that if a Palestinian state is established in Judea and Samaria, Hamas will also be victorious in the next election.
A Palestinian State would quickly empty itself of a Christian presence. We should ask the leaders of the United States, England and Europe, why create another failed Muslim state?
Outside of the Gulf States with over a million mainly Asian Christians laborers, Israel is the only place in the Middle East where the Christians are growing in number. They are excelling in education, doing well in business and feeling relatively safe from their radical tormentors. Ibid.
The Israeli government is not a perfect government. Far from it. But Christian Arabs have more freedom in Israel than any Muslim state anywhere in the world. The Messianic Jews of Israel and many Arab Christians are praying earnestly that a new Palestinian Islamic state will not be created by the West.
May they open their Bibles and see that Judea and Samaria is the very place where God promised by oath that this land will belong to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants forever.
100 children of ethnic Christians heard the story of why Jesus came to earth—to bring them salvation! The children received gifts in honor of Easter.
Arab evangelists with whom we partner are constantly working in Judea and Samaria to reach Palestinians with the Truth which will set them free.
The gathering of this many Christians from different villages was a tremendous spiritual success. They are begging for more “revival” meetings. Nearly all of them signed cards with their names and addresses, asking for someone to visit their homes with the Gospel—the first step in discipleship.
None of the names in these three testimonies are actual names. Bringing Muslims to faith in Gaza is extremely dangerous because the government is run by Hamas. In Judea and Samaria (West Bank), the government is less lethal. But because the Arab citizenry is 98% Islamic, Muslim Converts to Christianity are in extreme danger, simply because Islamic culture teaches that a Muslim who converts should be killed.
In the West Bank it is estimated there are some 40,000 ethnic and largely nominal Christians. They are Greek, Syrian, Armenian and Ethiopian Orthodox, Coptic, Roman Catholic, Marionite and a few conservative Protestant denominations. They are an open harvest field because these ethnic Christians have almost never been taught about a personal relationship with God, or receiving salvation through the blood sacrifice of Jesus. The Palestinian Authority largely leaves ethnic Christians to themselves, as long as they keep to themselves and do not evangelize Muslims.
There are a few evangelical churches who preach the Gospel with boldness. They are mainly in the areas of Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Ramallah. Some of their leaders have suffered very severe persecution, such as Pastor Naim Khury of Bethlehem.
Arab evangelists bring together ethnic Christians from a number of Palestinian villages to a hotel to preach the meaning of Easter. Over a hundred ethnic Christians gathered for this meeting with some Muslim neighbors joining in this outreach.
Ali comes from a well-known devout Muslim family in Jerusalem. All of Ali’s life he wanted to be a good, religious Muslim. He wanted to please Allah.
When he was 11 years old he had a dream. In his dream he saw a light surrounded by people singing. A man stood in the middle of the circle, but he was so brightly illuminated Ali couldn’t make out his face.
The next morning he went to his mother excitedly to tell her about his dream. His mother, dumbfounded, told his father, who sent him to the mosque to speak with the Sheikh. The Sheikh didn’t have a full explanation but said it was a very special dream and meant Ali had become the beloved of Prophet Mohammed and would be guaranteed to go to heaven.
Ali continued striving to be a good Muslim—going to the mosque and praying daily. One day on his job as a taxi driver. he was confronted by a friendly woman near the Old City Wall of Jerusalem who was giving out books. She knocked on his car window to get his attention, smiled, and handed him one of her books—the Bible.
Though he was always taught the Bible is a corrupt book, forbidden to Muslims, he couldn’t bring himself to throw it away. During this same time he began to study more about Islam, but could not find satisfaction for the answers he was seeking. Somehow, the daily prayer and just “being good” didn’t seem to be enough for him anymore. He wanted to know more about who God is, and the meaning of this life. Most of all, he wanted a guarantee he would go to heaven after death.
He began to search deeper within Islam; he read books on the life of Mohammed and the Koran. However, the deeper he got, the more problems and contradictions he found. This led him to believe that Sunni Islam [the religion of Palestinians] must not be the correct path. Even the prophet Mohammed did not guarantee heaven to anyone.
So he decided to begin investigating Shiite Islam. Maybe the answers were there. He searched for books explaining Shiite Islam in local bookshops in Jerusalem, but couldn’t find any material in the Palestinian territories where he lived. So he decided to travel to Jordan, where his aunt and uncle live. He knew them to be good people; perhaps they had answers.
As he talked to his relatives, he began to open up about his journey, searching for the truth. To his disappointment, his uncle told him that the Shiite religion was not the answer. But then his uncle told him he knew someone who could answer his questions. Ali made immediate arrangements for them to meet.
He met Yosef, a teacher who requested that Ali would first sit and listen to his own story. Then, at the end, if Ali had any questions he would answer. Yosef began to tell him about Creation, and walked him through the pages of the Bible—all the way to the coming of Jesus!
At the end of the meeting, Ali was speechless! It finally made sense to him! The teacher had answered all of his questions.
Ali returned to his aunt and uncle’s house and went to his room to pray. He closed the door and began to ask God, “Who is the right one to follow: Jesus or Mohammed?” While he was praying he had a vision. He saw a terrifying woman and experienced a fear he had never known before. He described it as being like he had descended into hell. A man came from behind the woman as if to harm him, and Ali began to cry out, “GOD, GOD, GOD…” and then without realizing, it slipped from his lips, “JESUS!” At the moment he said the name of Jesus, the figures disappeared and he knew then that Jesus is truly the Son of God. He felt a warmth all over his body and was filled with a joy he had never felt before.
The next morning, Ali told his aunt and uncle about his experience. His aunt began to cry—she and his uncle had also become believers, and they had been praying for their family in Israel to come to faith. This was a miracle and answered prayer!
They called Yosef, who came to pray with Ali, and took him to a church to meet other believers and celebrate! As they approached the church, Ali heard the familiar melody of a song. He had a flashback to the dream of the illuminated man when he was 11 years old. This was the very same melody he had heard then. And he understood this song belonged to Jesus, not Mohammed.
The happiness and excitement he felt from his childhood dream was a revelation of the True God. And he felt the same happiness as he entered the church and began to worship Him for the first time.
He again felt the indescribable joy. He understood he was in the presence of God. But what was he to do when he returned to Jerusalem? How could he find other born-again believers back home?
As he turned to rise from the service, the man sitting next to him introduced himself. He happened to know someone from Ali’s area who ministers to Arab believers. Ali was quickly connected with Christian leaders in Jerusalem who discipled and baptized him in Israel. He continues to walk with the Lord today.
Since coming to faith, his family does not understand or support his decision. However, he sees life totally different now. Instead of being filled with hatred and doubt, he has love for everyone and has the peace of Jesus upon him. Though his circumstances are difficult, God’s love radiates through him and his joy is a testimony to all those around him!
A young Muslim schoolboy in a Gazan high school had a chronic disease which the doctors were caring for, but had no cure. The boy began to wonder why he had this disease. For what purpose was he born? Why all the tragedy? The sickness? Why the wars? Why the hatred?
One night he had a dream. In the dream he saw a figure in a white robe with a bright shining face smiling at him, who told him, “Turn on the TV; I have a message for you.”
He turned on the TV, and he heard a message about Jesus being the Truth and the Savior of the world. In the message, the preacher kept repeating, “Accept Jesus. Accept Jesus.” This phrase kept going around in his mind and he wondered how he could know the truth.
Ahmed began to search on Facebook (in Arabic, of course) to try to find others who believed in Jesus as the Truth. He made contact with some believers in other Arab nations, and these Christians put him in touch by phone with Daniel, our co-worker in Judea and Samaria with whom Maoz partners.
Ahmed was now 21 years old and attending a university in Gaza. He continued to stay in contact with Daniel.
In long conversations with Ahmed, Daniel asked if he had a Bible. Hearing that he did not, Daniel sent him one secretly into Gaza. It was a priceless treasure for Ahmed.
He had many questions and the two talked often, because Ahmed did not know a single believer in Gaza.
One day, his father caught him reading the New Testament. He grabbed the Bible from him and warned him never to read it again. It was a terrible scene between a Muslim Arab father and his son. But not long after, Ahmed found the Bible his father had hidden, and began reading it again.
His father grabbed it and tore it up.
Ahmed grabbed a Koran and tore it up, and fled his house. Having nowhere to go, he slept out in a park, where the police found him and asked what he was doing there. Frightened and not knowing what to do, he knew he had to find some place to stay.
The next morning, Daniel called to encourage Ahmed. “I told him,” Daniel said, “Go back to your father and apologize to him. Show respect to his religion—even if you believe differently. You must be respectful to your father.”
Daniel was very afraid for Ahmed, and contacted other people to pray.
That morning Ahmed’s father called him and said, “Ahmed, I’ll not punish you. Come back home. I love you and whatever you believe, I want you to come back home.”
Ahmed then found an Arabic Bible on the Internet and continued to earnestly study the Bible. One of Daniel’s disciples has kept in touch with Ahmed by phone.
Now Ahmed spends much time on the Internet preaching the truth of Jesus to Muslims. He is sharing the Gospel by Facebook with nominal Christians, Muslims and even Jews! He is in conversation on Facebook with believers and seekers in such places as Lebanon, Syria, Algeria, the West Bank and Egypt!
But here is the sad part. He is not in contact with any other believers in Gaza. The few evangelicals there are so afraid there might be a spy who would turn them over to Hamas; their fellowship comes only through Internet with far-away Christians. For born-again believers, life in Gaza is very lonely.
According to a website that focuses on the persecuted church, there is only one church left in Gaza, Gaza Baptist Church, founded in 1954. According to Bro. Andrew, the famous man of God who has circled the world evangelizing in dangerous places, the Gaza Baptist Church has gone from over 100 members to less than 12 born-again believers. The rule of Hamas has taken its toll. Most evangelical Christians left Gaza when it was possible to travel from Gaza to the West Bank. Our co-worker Daniel, is one of those who fled to the West Bank after the murder of a worker at the Bible Society.
Today Daniel estimates there may be 50 strong Christians left in Gaza. And possibly another 20-25 from Muslim backgrounds—and other secret believers known only to God. Daniel knows one Muslim who became a Christian in Gaza. Hamas threw him in jail and beat him until he agreed to go back to Islam.
The one highway to truth still available to Muslims in Gaza are four different Arab-language TV stations coming from abroad. And of course there is the Internet—Facebook, YouTube and other websites. Daniel told us, “Ironically, the hearts of the Gazan people are open to the Gospel.” Pray for the salvation of Whosoever Will in Gaza!
Mohammed lived in Judea and Samaria, known by most of the world as the West Bank. He was a very intelligent student, at the top of his class. At 16 years old, he was one of the best readers of the Koran, with an amazing voice.
Until today, Mohammed’s father is one of the heads of Hamas in his town and his two brothers have long terms in prison for terrorist attacks.
Mohammed came across information on a Catholic Internet website in Lebanon, about Jesus being the Savior of the World. He began to correspond with someone on the site, with the thought he would convert him to Islam.
There were long discussions over five or six months. Although Mohammed was not convinced he should become a Catholic, he came to the conclusion that Islam was wrong. Instead of the world of hatred and violence he had known all his life, he was now attracted to the love shown by Jesus’ sacrifice for the world.
So instead of converting his new-found friends to Islam, he found himself listening carefully to the claims of Christianity.
Then he saw a TV evangelist speak in Arabic about the Christian faith, and Mohammed contacted the evangelist to learn more. The Christian evangelist then contacted me and Sammy, a coworker. Both of us took Mohammed under our wing and began to minister to this young high school student.
Sammy actually went to Mohammed’s town, and meeting him there, began to disciple him on a regular basis. I too was on the phone with Mohammed often.
The young believer then began to share his new faith with his friends. Finally, he told us he wanted to be baptized, and in obedience to the Word of God, he was baptized in a natural spring near Jericho.
Mohammed’s behavior began to change. He refused to chant the Koran in his classes. And in his religion class, he no longer was active because he simply no longer believed in Islam.
He shared his new faith with a couple of his friends who also became believers. But after a short time, they saw there was a heavy social price. They didn’t want to be isolated from their friends, and so turned away from the faith back to Islam. In fact, many of his friends began to threaten Mohammed, “If you don’t return to Islam we will tell your father… If your father knows about this, he will kill you and you will bring shame on your whole family.”
Not long after, Mohammed called Sammy and told him, “I am no longer a Christian. I have gone back to Islam.” But the next day, he called again and told Sammy that the earlier phone call had been a fake. “I had friends around me and they forced me to tell you that I have returned to Islam. But I want you to know I am really still a Christian. My heart is for Christ. I am 100% a Christian. I will never turn back from my faith,” he said.
He wrote Daniel on Facebook and declared the same thing. This back-and-forth exchange happened twice. The second time he told Sammy, “It’s urgent. I must see you.”
Mohammed rode a bus from his town to an area far away where he met Sammy. He looked terrified. “I know I am watched. I came to sit with you alone because I know they are watching me in my town. I love Jesus, but they are threatening my life. Know that I am still a believer. Christ is my King. I believe in Him.”
Usually Mohammed would sit with Sammy for a couple of hours being taught the Word of God. But this time after 30-40 minutes he said he had to leave. Sammy asked him, “What kind of threat are you under?” But he wouldn’t say.
Sammy and Daniel knew he was a 17½-year-old who had only been a believer for a year. They began to consider sending him to a safe house.
But after Mohammed went back home, we didn’t hear from him for a week. Then we saw on Internet news that he had gone to a Jewish settlement and stabbed two soldiers. Immediately he was shot and killed. Later we heard the stab wounds on the soldiers were light and the soldiers quickly recovered.
We suppose that his family demanded he return to Islam and prove himself by killing a Jewish person. If he would not become a “martyr,” then his father most likely told him that he himself would kill him.
We were broken-hearted. We couldn’t believe we had lost Mohammed.
Still, we wonder if he lightly stabbed the soldiers on purpose…
Mohammed had often said he wanted to see his whole town saved.
What is absolute fact: Even today, without an official Islamic Palestinian state, a Muslim in the Palestinian territories who sees the truth and leaves Islam to become a Christian is risking his life.
Last year “Dor Haba” (Hebrew for “Next Generation”) brought together for the first time about 80 Jewish and Arab youth (mostly teenagers) for a four-day camp to raise up and strengthen youth worship teams. The young people came from all over Israel, and even some Palestinian youth came from Bethlehem!
Organized and hosted by Succat Hallel (a 24/7 Worship and Prayer Center in Jerusalem), young adult leaders from many different congregations in the Land, together with a visiting international team of leaders, helped in the training of these teenagers.
We taught on living a life of worship, Biblical foundations for night-and-day prayer, and worshipping and serving God in spirit and in truth. We emphasized how to use their gifts and talents for God, how to be led by the Spirit, and how to flow in unity on a worship team. This camp was not for the casual believer!
In the evenings, all of the youth took turns with their teams leading worship in Hebrew and Arabic. After the ministry of the Word, there were more extended times in the Presence of the Lord, and many of the youth had strong encounters with the Holy Spirit.
Camp coordinator Bethany Rosenfeld reported: “For me personally, it was all worth it when I saw four teenagers from the camp show up at Succat Hallel Prayer and Worship Center, Bibles in hand, on a Wednesday morning following the camp. Three of them had taken a two-hour bus ride from the central part of Israel, and one Arab teenager came from Bethlehem.”
There is no more strategic investment than investing in the next generation. How much more strategic is it to invest in the next generation in Israel!
Thank you, Maoz Ministries partners, who covered most of the budget of last year’s national youth worship camp, and who have committed to raise the funds for this year’s camp, to take place this June.
The Lord is pouring out His Spirit on our youth, and our “sons and daughters” are beginning to prophesy as they learn to live lives of worship. Thank you for your prayerful consideration of what you can do to invest, not only in finances, but also in prayer, for this next generation in Israel!
To find out more visit www.dorhaba.com
THIS IS WHAT BREAKTHROUGH LOOKS LIKE!
God is using these camps to usher in a move of God among the Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian young people through music and worship that is unprecedented in this young country. We are well aware this is God’s timing and God’s plan for Israel and the Arab territories right now. We are confident that our Maoz partners will rejoice to invest in this coming event. Needed for 100 Jewish and Arab young people: $30,000.(Each student pays a nominal fee). Any overflow of funds will go towards the next camp!
Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram