Ash Wednesday in the Holy Land

 Although it’s Ash Wednesday, and Jerusalem has been revered as sacred in Christianity for some 2,000 years now, you won’t … Continued

 Although it’s Ash Wednesday, and Jerusalem has been revered as sacred in Christianity for some 2,000 years now, you won’t see a lot of people with ash crosses on their foreheads here today. It is the Jewish state, after all.

One has to go looking for Christians in the Old City, or in nearby Bethlehem — two of Christianity‘s holiest places — if you want to see believers in any numbers.

The Old City, the ancient, walled part of Jerusalem that houses the holy sites of three religions, is the home of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is said to have been buried. Also within its narrow winding streets is the Via Dolorosa, which traces Jesus’s last steps before his crucifixion. .

Overall, Jerusalem has almost eight synagogues for every Christian church and two churches for every mosque. But along the Via Dolorosa, Christian pilgrims walk faithfully, sometimes carrying a large wooden cross to identify with Jesius’s suffering.

View Photo Gallery: From Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, global scenes of faith and tradition.

Bethlehem, a small, predominantly-Muslim town five miles south of Jerusalem, is where Jesus is believed to have been born in a grotto. Christian pilgrims flock to Bethlehem, too, a central West Bank town of some 30,000 run by the Palestinian National Authority. You need to pass through an Israeli military checkpoint to get to Bethlehem from Jerusalem, although it‘s just down the road.

One of the oldest Christian communities in the world lives in Bethlehem, although it has shrunk in recent years due to emigration. The town basically lives off Christian tourism.

Although Jerusalem is such a holy place for Christians, only 2 percent of the population of 770,000 is Christian. Some 65 percent of Jerusalem’s population is Jewish and 32 percent Muslim.

And the living together ain’t easy.

“For the Christian community in Israel, the environment remains inhospitable,“ said a story in Wednesday’s Jerusalem Post
, reporting on anti-Christian graffiti that was scrawled on the walls of a Jerusalem Baptist Church this week.

Vandals wrote “Death to Christianity” and other insults on the church walls. Vehicles nearby were also defaced. Israeli police said they were investigating a possible link between that case and another recent case of graffiti on a Greek Orthodox monastery. Christian clergy have also been the victims of spitting attacks by ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Old City.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Hana Bendcowsky, program director for the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian relations on the attacks: “I don’t think a majority would engage in such a vandalistic act, but it is a manifestation of anti-Christian feeling in Israeli society. The main problem is ignorance, a lot of stereotypes and the history of Jewish-Christian relationships in Europe that influence the attitude of Israelis toward local Christians.”

  • amc1

    This article presents a very distorted view. In fact, Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has seen a renaissance of Chirstianity in recent times. The number of Christian churches and Christian individuals in Israel has grown exponentially since Israel’s founding in 1948. That’s in stark contrast to all the other Middle Eastern states where there has been a net outflow of Christians fleeing persecution of non-Muslims. 800,000 Jews were expelled from predominantly Muslim countries after Israel was founded, and today anti-Christian persecution is commonplace in those countries. Israel is the only Middle East country where there has been in inflow of Christians. Highlighting the acts a few lunatics creates a gross distortion of reality.

Read More Articles

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

Why I Want to Be Culturally Evangelical

I’ve lost my faith. Do I have to lose my heritage, too?

What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.