JUSTICE AND PEACE COMMISSION
ASSEMBLY OF THE CATHOLIC ORDINARIES OF THE HOLY LAND
Christian Palestinians in Israel
The Israeli Ministry of the Interior announced that Christian Palestinian Arab citizens in Israel can now change their registration in the Ministry from Arabs to “Arameans ”. What does this mean? Arameans were an ancient people that dwelt in the Middle East. Their language, Aramaic, was the lingua franca of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian Empires. It was adopted by the Jews in the Babylonian Exile and has remained important for them until today because a large part of the rabbinic tradition was written in Aramaic. Some streams of Christianity adopted a form of Aramaic, known as Syriac, and it remains a liturgical language for some Eastern Churches until today.
Arabs who live today in Greater Syria have spoken different languages over the centuries: Aramaic, Greek and Arabic. Today, the unique language in daily use throughout the area is Arabic (except for tiny pockets where some form of colloquial Aramaic is preserved). Today, we, in Israel, we are Christian Palestinians Arabs.
Some in the Israeli administration seem to think that separating Christian Palestinians from other Palestinians is a way to protect Christians. We say to these people, if you are sincere: first, give us back our homes, our properties, our villages and towns, all that you have confiscated. Second, the best way to protect us is to keep us in our people. Third, the best protection for us, for you and for all, is to seriously engage in walking the path of peace.
To those who seek to change our identity, we say: you can gain our support as allies uniquely in the way of peace. We are allies for peace without you needing to take invasive measures to dilute our identity. In fact all Palestinians can be allies for peace, but a peace based on respect for human dignity. For many, today, the Israeli administration is the one who refuses peace.
If you chose to remain on the path of war, do not push us to follow you. The way of war is not our way. It is a way that benefits nobody, neither you nor us, nor anybody in the region. We cannot be condemned, neither us nor you, nor any human being, to live in a permanent state of war. If your choice is war in order to remain the stronger party, leave us with our choice of peace. We will act for peace, for us and for you, for all our people, and for all the region.
To the few Christian Palestinian Arabs in Israel, who support this idea of changing their identity or serving in the Israeli army, we say: Come back to your senses. Do not harm your people, because of idle promises and personal egoistic gain. By adopting such a position, you do not benefit yourselves nor do you benefit Israel. Israel is in need of Christians who have heard Jesus’ teaching: “Blessed the peace makers”. Israel does not need Christians who have deformed their identity, who position themselves as enemy of their own people and who become soldiers for war. This does not produce peace, neither for you nor for any other Israeli. Serve yourselves, serve your people and serve Israel in remaining faithful to the truth, i.e. faithful to your identity as Christians, as Palestinians and as peacemakers. Promote peace among yourselves, among Palestinians and Israelis.
The vocation of the Christian is not to suddenly become an Aramean nor to go to war. Rather the vocation of the Christian is to point the way to peace and to walk in its path. This peace must be built on the dignity of each human being, Palestinian and Jewish. Blessed are the peace makers for they truly serve God and humanity, all humanity, Palestinians and Israelis and the whole region.
Jerusalem, 16 September 2014