The Vanishing Israeli Christian

The Vanishing Israeli Christian

Associate Editor

The millennium is bringing a multitude of Christian tourism and media attention to Israel, and Israelís tourism ministry worked hard for it. But while those tourists are vital ó according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in a series of stories begun earlier this year, even pre-millennial tourism has been 60 percent Christian ó the mediaís examination of the status of Israeli Christians is not a pretty one.The Boston Globe reports that while Christian tourism will double to four million in Y2K, Christian natives are vanishing even faster: Theyíve dropped from 20 percent of the Holy Land population to no more than 2 percent today. In Jerusalem, Christians have dropped from a 1940 population of 45,000 to fewer than 10,000 today.

While the Globe has in its series of stories ìnot found evidence of widespread persecution, as some would claim,î they attribute some of the problem to ìthe intolerance of rising Muslim and Jewish fundamentalism.îBethlehemís Mayor Hanna Nasser, a Christian, says that city has gone from a 95 percent Christian majority to a 35 percent minority over the last 50 years, with most leaving the country.ìBut we should not blame this on rising Muslim fundamentalism,î he says. He blames Israel alone, for confiscating Christian land and using it to build Jewish settlements. Also, says the mayor, ìwhen the Israeli military closed off our access to East Jerusalem, they cut off the lifeblood of our economy. We have 30 percent unemployment and a per-capita annual income below $1,000. That is why Christians leave.

An example of the alleged ìultra-Orthodoxî discrimination, cited by the Globe, is a proposed Knesset bill to make Christian missionary activity illegal.In Israelís defense, Shmuel Evyatar, the Jerusalem mayorís liaison to the Christian community, told the Globe that the alleged intolerance is exaggerated and misunderstood.ìThe American Christian missionaries here want to think of this place as a suburb, like some place in New Jersey. The religious Jews are playing the game of democracy. … They are not saying Christians should get out. But they are saying donít come into my yard and tell me what to do.îAdditionally, the Israeli government has said that Arab Christians feel greater pressure from Arab Muslims, but it is easier to blame the Israelis.nA Quinnipiac College poll of New York State voters revealed that since the Lewinsky scandal broke, Jewish approval for President Clinton has gone from 76 percent to 83 percent, far above the national average. Now, on the front page of The New York Observer (March 15), writer Philip Weiss wonders why.ìNo one talks about Jewish support for Mr. Clinton,î writes Weiss. A ìdiscussion would require an acknowledgment of Jewish power. The establishment is now heavily Jewish. … There are unprecedented numbers of Jews in the White House and Congress. … Jews are among the big winners in the economic boom.îHe adds that Jews, with a misplaced nostalgia, like to think of themselves as ìoutsiders,î and somehow Clintonís ìwhite trashî credentials allows Jews to see even a president of the United States as an outsider when confronted by more traditional establishment types such as Ken Starr or congressional Republicans.But how can the White House not be establishment? ìI grew up idolizing Jews of political conscience who battled the establishment. … Thatís what I thought Jews in public life stood for.îBut today, ìWhen someone on MSNBC suggested that he couldnít wait till Alan Dershowitz cross-examined [the rape claim by Juanita] Broaddrick, I was sickened to my stomach. Is this what Jews stand for now?îAs for Lewinsky, her book ìrepresents the worst values of the new establishment: materialistic, entitled, self-absorbed, victimized, obsessed with appearances. What do Jews stand for in that book?îNevertheless, Clintonís not yet out of the woods with the Jews when it comes to Jonathan Pollard. Over the past few months, Pollard has taken a media beating. Aside from Seymour Hershís devastating article in The New Yorker, the Washington Post editorialized: ìWe always have thought of Jonathan Pollard, and still do, as a contemptible and duplicitous mercenary whose misdeeds were reckless and threatening to American security, his motives uninteresting and immaterial and his word unreliable.îNow, Slate (March 12), the popular online magazine edited by Michael Kinsley, features a lead article by David Plotz stating that Clinton ìmay finally have trapped himselfî over Pollard and the presidentís debt to the Jewish community.Several months ago, at the Wye conference, Clinton promised to review the Pollard case. However, ìThe entire national security apparatus … adamantly opposes Pollardís release. And virtually the entire American Jewish community favors it. The spooks or the Jews: Which should he choose?îUntil recently, Pollardís cause ìhad been championed mostly by a small, vocal, paranoid, inflammatory, dishonest group of supporters, principally extremely pro-Israel, right-wing American Jewish groups. … As long as these kooks were Pollardís principal support, it was easy for Presidents Bush and Clinton to ignore him. But then Pollard got lucky. In the early í90s, the Israeli government, which had distanced itself from Pollard, embraced him. And during the past three years, mainstream Jewish groups have started coming around. … They have given Pollardís cause new credibility by avoiding the preposterous claims of his loyalists.î Hence Clintonís quandary.Say this for Slateís fairness: Along with this article they offered Internet links to pro-Pollard web sites and an archive of articles defending the spy.

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