Most Christians in the Holy Land are Arabs? How can that be? How can a Christian be an Arab?

To many people in North America, to be Arab means to be Muslim.  In fact they are two separate concepts. The term Arab refers to a culture or ethnicity, such as Latino, which can, and often does, span nations and religions.For example, the Mexican-born actress Salma Hayek is, in addition to being a Latina, is also a Christian whose father is Lebanese.  Ralph Nader, Tony Shalhoub (TV's Monk), John Sununu, Shakira, Governor Mitc Daniels, Steve Jobs,  Frank Zappa, Vince Vaughn, Doug Flutie, George Mitchell are all Christians of Arab extraction

Wikipedia reports: "Arab identity is defined independently of religious identity, and pre-dates the rise of Islam, with historically attested Arab Christian kingdoms and Arab Jewish tribes."

In fact,
about 80 percent of the world Muslim population area NOT Arab.

Christians in North America, as part of their efforts to embrace their fellow Christians in the Holy Landand to stand in solidarity with them, owe it to themselves to learn more about what it means to be an Arab to understand more about what it means to be a Christian in the Holy Land.

Christians are a Double Minority in the Holy Land with Multiple Identities.

It' can be very confusing.  And sometimes conflicting.  In addition to their Christian identity, Christians living in the Holy Land may also be Palestinian, Israeli and/or Arab.  And they live as a double minority: a minority among Arab Muslims and among Israeli Jews. 

Why is the Holy Land holy to Muslims and Jews?

In the Qur'an, the term "Holy Land" is mentioned at least seven times, once when Moses proclaims to the Children of Israel: "O my people! Enter the holy land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin." (Surah 5:21)

Jerusalem (referred to in Arabic as Al-Quds, meaning the "Holy") has particular significance in Islam. The Qur'an refers to Muhammad's experiencing the Isra and Mi'raj (the two parts of a Night Journey that, according to Islamic tradition, the Islamic prophet Muhammad took during a single night around the year 621) as "a Journey by night from the Sacred (Mecca) Mosque to the Farthest (al-Aqsa) Mosque, whose precincts We did bless" (17:1). Islamic tradition associates the "Farthest Mosque" as Al-Quds.

While the Jewish bible does not refer to the Land of Israel as the "holy land", this is implied by the Land being given to the Israelites by God, that is, it is the "promised land," an integral part of God's covenant. In the Torah many of God's commandments  can only be performed in the Land of Israel.

According to one commentator:  "The uniqueness of the Land of Israel ... [is that it is]the land which faces the entrance of the spiritual world, that sphere of existence that lies beyond the physical world known to us through our senses. This is the key to the land's unique status with regard to prophecy and prayer, and also with regard to the commandments"

Further,  Jerusalem, Hebron, Tzfat and Tiberias are regarded as Judaism's holiest cities. Jerusalem, as the site of Solomon's Temple,  is considered especially significant. For example, The temple is on  Mount Moriah, the location of the binding of Isaac. Jerusalem is mentioned 669 times and  many of God's commandments can only be performed within its environs.

Why Can't Muslims and Jews (and Christians) share the Holy Land?  Especially Jerusalem?

They can.  And they will.  But the task can be quicker and easier with the help of Christians living in the Holy Land.  However, because Christians are such a small minority in the Holy Land, that help will only be effective with the active support and concern for Christians in the Holy Land by Christians living outside the Holy Land.  Specifically, the kind of support and concern that puts aside and leaves out of the discussion political biases for, or political prejudices against, Palestinians or Israelis, and religious biases for, or religious prejudices against, Muslims or Jews.

What are the Christian Holy Sites in the Holy Land?

  • ISRAEL (Jerusalem): The Golgotha (sometimes called Calvary) hill outside of ancient Jerusalem’s early 1st century walls that contains the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of All Nations, but many other Christian institutions as well. Jerusalem is believed to be the site of some of Jesus's teaching, the Last Supper which is believed to have occurred at the Cenacle, and the subsequent institution of the Holy Eucharist as well as His entombment; Christians believe he was crucified on a nearby hill.

  • ISRAEL: The Via Dolorosa, The route to Jesus' death consists of fourteen stations, beginning with the Monastery of Flagellation (the first of 14 stations o the Via Dolorosa) where the trial of Jesus took place and extending towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where, according to the Christian gospels, Jesus was crucified and buried.

    The second station on the path consists of an ancient Roman arch onto which the words spoken by the Roman emperor who sent Jesus to his death are carved. The third station commemorates Jesus' first lapse of exhaustion. 

    The fourth station is the spot believed to be the meeting place between Jesus and his mother. The fifth station is where Christ was approached by Simon the Cyrenian.

    The sixth station marks the meeting place of Jesus and  Veronica who whipped his pained face with her scarf. The seventh station  commemorates Jesus' second lapse of exhaustion. The eighth station marks where Jesus was helped by yet another pious woman. The ninth is the place where Christ's body collapsed yet again under the weight of the cross.

    The remaining five stations (10th to 14th) are located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and commemorate Jesus' death, the Pieta scene wherein Christ is held by Marry for the last time, and his burial.

  • PALESTINE: The city of Bethlehem with the Church of the Nativity is believed to mark the birthplace of Jesus, and also the Shepherd's Fields in the neighboring village of Beit Sahour, the location of the angel's visitation to the shepherds to announce the birth of Christ.

  • ISRAEL: Church of the Annunciation in Basilica and Mary's Well inNazareth which is believed to be Jesus's hometown, and the site of other holy places.

  • ISRAEL: Sephoria (Tzippori), where the Virgin Mary was said to have spent her childhood

  • PALESTINE: Nearby Jericho, the site called "Qasr el Yahud" on the western bank of the River Jordan, is the site of the Baptism of Jesus.

  • Cave dwelling of John the Baptist.

  • ISRAEL: Sea of Galilee.

  • ISRAEL: The site of the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor.
  • The Jerusalem to Jericho road to which was the location of the Good Samaritan's charity.

  • ISRAEL: The Mount of Temptation in Jericho which was the site of Satan's failed attempts to tempt Jesus.

  • PALESTINE: Jacob's Well in Nablus marks the site where Jesus revealed to a Samaritan woman that he was the Messiah.

  • ISRAEL: Capernaum, believed to be Jesus's home after Nazareth, site of what is believed to be the house of Peter.

  • ISRAEL: Mount of the Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount

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