Israel: Christians Have Concerns About the New Government

February 02, 2023
Interior of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament

Benjamin Netanyahu, the new Israeli Prime Minister, was sworn in on December 29 before the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, after the vote of 63 deputies out of the 120 in Parliament in favor of his government.

The leader of the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was notably granted the post of National Security minister. Itamar Ben-Gvir has defended the leader of the Lehava group, Bentzi Gopstein, who led violent protests against Christian demonstrations in the Holy Land. Bentzi Gopstein even said that Israel should expel its entire Christian population.

As a lawyer, in 2015, Ben-Gvir also defended a man convicted of setting fire to the Catholic Church of the Multiplication, in Tabgha, on the shores of Lake Galilee.

The Catholic news site Crux reports that Juergen Buehler, director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ),  issued stern warnings to Benjamin Netanyahu at an evangelical media summit on December 11, 2022.

Juergen Buehler called on the Prime Minister to “use all his influence so that this next legislative period is not an era of new disputes or new walls, but a time when partnerships and relations between Jews and Christians will continue to develop.”

As concern grows over Israel's new government, considered the most right-wing and nationalist in the country's history, Ordinaries of the Holy Land lament the increase in discrimination against the Christian community and urged young people not to leave.

In their Christmas message on December 21, 2022, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem said that Jesus, through His incarnation and birth in Bethlehem, “revealed to mankind God's deep and abiding love for all His people” and that He also “associated Himself with the suffering of the world, enduring with the Holy Family the many struggles of life under occupation.”

“In this regard, we express our particular concern for the faithful who remain as a Christian remnant in the land where our Lord was born,” they added, stressing that Christians living in the Holy Land in recent years “have increasingly faced attacks on their free exercise of religion, attacks on their person, defamation of their churches and cemeteries, unjustified restrictions on their participation in worship, and legal threats against their possession and management Church properties.”

In a December 12 statement, the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land expressed the hope that under the new government, “the attention of the country's civil authorities will be given with equity to the diverse communities that make up Israeli society, without discrimination or preference.”

Catholic Ordinaries also lamented the recent drastic government funding cuts to Christian schools in Israel, which are now “on the brink of crisis,” and they signaled that the lack of resources “will jeopardize the future of many of our education establishments, which still play an important role in the field of education within our society.”