Pub no. 420
Christians and Christianity in Jerusalem and the State of Israel
The complex and complicated relationship between the Christian world and the State of Israel
The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 posed a “complex theological challenge” to the churches and the Christian world: how should the Christian world refer to the Jewish people’s success in establishing a sustainable Jewish state in the Holy Land, in light of the traditional Christian conception according to which the Jewish people were sentenced to punishment by exile and constant humiliation?
The Six-Day War and its surprising conquests of Bethlehem and East Jerusalem, home to most of Christianity’s holy places and the centers of the different churches in the Holy Land, served to further heighten the fears of the local Christian communities and churches and also among international Christian elements.
For the first time ever, the holy places of Christianity were under the control of a state that Christians of all types identified with Judaism, the defeated religion that birthed Christianity, which was the victorious religion and the spiritual heir of “Israel in the flesh”.
Religious and historical baggage alone did not the preserve the Christian world. While most of Israel’s leaders were aware of the influence of religious-historical residue on the attitude of the Christian world towards the country, they were not free from the influence of Jewish notions about the Christian world. The leaders of Israel, the state of the Jewish people, which for centuries was a minority dependent on the good graces of Christian and Muslim rulers, found themselves in the role of "Caesar", expected to deal with the affairs of local Christian communities, with international Christian bodies, holy sites and the vast Church property that remained within the boundaries of the young state.
The fact that most of the Christians in the country were Arabs, regarding whose loyalty to the state the Israeli leadership had some doubts, increased the problematic nature of the ties between Israel and the local Christian communities. This reversal of fortunes and the intricate and complicated relations between the Christian world and the State of Israel are the principal focus of this research project.