The Shmooze

Christian Palestinians Moving Back to Holy Land

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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There’s no place like home when it comes to the Holy Land. These are the sentiments of millions of Jews, but also of the many Christian Palestinians now choosing to return there after having lived abroad.

American-Israeli freelance journalist Michele Chabin reports in the National Catholic Register that recent statistics show that for the first time in a long time, more Christians are moving to Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories than are leaving them. Palestinian Prime Minister Salem Fayyad “credited improvements in Palestinian civic society, governance and infrastructure for much of the reversal,” Chabin wrote.

Economic hardship and the difficult times of the Second Intifada drove many Christians, especially young ones, to seek a new life in countries in Europe and North America. The common belief has been that as soon as a young person gets his or her academic degree, he or she looks to leave for the West.

It turns out that quite a few young Christian Palestinian families found that not only was the cost of living higher abroad than they had bargained for, but that they could not find the kind of family and community support that they enjoyed back home.

One Armenian father (who had moved with his young family to Toronto in 2000) Chabin interviewed also said that once September 11th happened, he realized that Israel and the Palestinian territories were not as unsafe as they are made out to be, and that violence can happen anywhere. The tragedy helped put things into perspective for him and became part of the calculus that eventually led to his family’s returning home to East Jerusalem in 2004.

To a large extent, this father, concerned about the religious upbringing and national identity of his children, has chosen to raise his family back in the Holy Land for very similar reasons why Jews from the Diaspora who have chosen to make aliyah.

“I think Canada is one of the best countries in the world, because it provides its citizens the freedom to be whatever they want to be,” he said. But he has returned home because in Jerusalem, “I’m making a living, giving my daughters a good education. It’s very important to me that, here in Jerusalem, people don’t have to make an effort to be Christian.”


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