First Woman Pastor in Israel Seems to Have Some Troubling Views

The world media is reporting how Sally Azar, a palestinian Arab Christian from Jerusalem, became the first woman pastor in the Holy Land.

As the BBC reports:

“I got more excited seeing the excitement of other people,” Reverend Azar told me. “It’s an indescribable feeling to take this step with the support of the church.”

“I hope that many girls and women will know this is possible and that other women in other churches will join us. I know it will take a long time, but I think it could be exciting if this changes in Palestine.”

As a pastor she will take on different duties including leading services and bible studies in Jerusalem and in Beit Sahour, in the occupied West Bank, for English speaking congregations.

It sounds like Azar wants to inspire, especially young women.

But if you think she will try to inspire people to seek peace with Israel, I am not too hopeful, based on this video of her from a year ago:

Note how she speaks about “resistance”, which is often used euphemistically to include terrorism. She even states that “resistance has taken different forms throughout the years,” so it is hard to believe she meant to exclude the violent forms.

I also take issue with her claim that in Jerusalem, Israelis, palestinians, Muslims, Jews, Christians and many others live next to each other but there is no integration or communication. This is simply not true. I know of many Jews who are friendly with palestinian Arabs and Israeli Arabs in Jerusalem, and anyone who has visited Hadassah or Shaarei Tzedek hospitals, for example, will also be scratching their heads over this claim.

Her complaining she can never go to Gaza because of Israel is also rich when you consider what has happened to Christians there:

The walls of Gaza’s Church of the Holy Family” in Gaza City were decorated with lights inside and out as children carried candles and beat drums. The Gaza Strip’s Christian community was holding a Christmas Eve ceremony on Saturday.

Father Gabriel Romanelli, the priest of the Latin Church, told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, “Christmas represents a joyful event that we celebrate every year,” but only a few dozen Christians came to the Christmas Eve ceremony, underscoring the difficult situation of the community’s life under Hamas rule.

Hamas tries to hide official data on Gaza’s socio-economic situation in general and the Christians in particular. But accounts told by Christians who have left the Strip, church associations, and foreign journalists point to large-scale Christian emigration.

This rate has greatly increased since the rise of Hamas in 2007.

Hamas denies claims of discrimination and persecution against Christians. But while the Palestinians see Christians as “partners in the struggle against Israel and suffering,” it seems that Gaza’s Christians are actively discriminated against on religious grounds and are forced to emigrate and seek a new life.

Testimonies in the media and on social networks indicate that the concern among the Christian population in the Gaza Strip increased with the ascendancy of Hamas as well as the growth of extreme Salafi organizations in Gaza and Islamic State in the neighboring Sinai.

Church officials have documented two murders and five kidnappings because the victims were Christian.

In 2020, a major survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research revealed that 25% of Palestinian Christians as a whole had witnessed violence on religious grounds and a large majority said that they felt unwelcome among Muslims.

Furthermore, 25% reported religious discrimination in job interviews, while 30% reported that they were subjected to expressions of hatred on religious grounds. One-quarter of the Palestinian Christians told the pollsters that Muslims suggested they convert to Islam.

Additionally, 70% said that at least once in their lives, they heard from Muslims that Christians’ judgment is to burn in hell.

The results indicated that Palestinian Christian desires to emigrate far exceeds that of Palestinian Muslims. The percentage of Christians wanting to leave the Palestinian Authority is twice that of the Muslims.

Today, only about a thousand Christians live in the Gaza Strip. A large part of the Christian population is mainly concentrated in the west of Gaza City and they lead a closed community life. At the beginning of the 2000s, about 3,500 Christians lived in the Strip.

Palestinian sources interviewed by Arab media indicate that the opening of the Rafah crossing in 2018 resulted in the departure of approximately 24,000 immigrants from the Gaza Strip, while government sources in Israel said that the number reached 35,000 this year.

Consider the history of the Gaza Baptist Church, for example:

Because of its height, unusual in this mostly low-rise city, the Gaza Baptist Church building was repeatedly commandeered by Fatah and Hamas troops as an observation post during the Fatah–Hamas conflict. This resulted in several of Gaza Baptist Church’s staff being caught in crossfire. In one instance, a church librarian was hit by gunfire during a firefight between opposing factions. On a similar occasion, the church bus driver, a 22-year-old newlywed, was killed. The Church was raided and temporarily seized by Fatah police in February 2007.

In October 2007, one of Gaza Baptist Church’s leaders, Rami Ayyad, was kidnapped, publicly beaten, and murdered by unidentified militants. Ayyad had been the manager of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore, The Teacher’s Bookshop. Following Ayyad’s death, Gaza authorities advised Pastor Massad to relocate in order to ensure the safety of himself and his family. As a result of the violence, regular attendance at the church was adversely affected in following months.

Israel should be the least of her reasons for not visiting Gaza!

And it’s not like Christians in the PA-controlled areas have it great either.

I hope I am wrong about Azar, and she will now take the opportunity to try and inspire her followers to seek peace with Jews, while condemning Hamas and terrorism in general.

But her comments in that video don’t make me optimistic about her doing so.

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David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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