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Easter Libel

Apr 8, 2012 at 10:33:46 AM

One of the strongest bastions of support for Israel is the evangelical Christian community, which holds strong pro-Israel political views and donates untold millions of dollars toward pro-Israel causes. Fundamentalist Christians act in accord with Isaiah's prophetic imperative that "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent; for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet" (Isaiah 62:1) ― taking seriously the biblical promise that the Holy Land belongs to the Jews as an everlasting possession.

For those seeking to weaken support for Israel, a primary tactic is to drive a wedge between the Jewish state and the pro-Israel Christian community.

And so, in the run-up to Easter, the media mice are scurrying to do their damage. Last time, under the headline, "In Holy Land, Easter Not What it Was," Reuters described "a big drop" "in Easter week ceremonies."

This year, the Washington Post took its turn with a report, "A Dark Easter for Palestinian Christians," spouting the false claim that Israel prevents "the vast majority of Christians living in the West Bank" from attending Easter ceremonies.

Besides the fact that the Washington Post got the numbers wrong, media monitors dug into microfilm archives to reveal the truth of whether Easter participation is unfairly restricted under Israeli rule. News reports from the era when Jerusalem was under Jordanian control (1948-1967) show a total of 5,000 pilgrims in Jerusalem for Easter festivities ― a fraction of the permits that Israel has allotted to Palestinians alone. ("Easter Procession in Jerusalem," Glasgow Herald, April 9, 1955)

Similarly, when Jerusalem was under British control (1917-1948), only a few thousand pilgrims would come every year. ("Holy Fire Ceremony at Holy Sepulchre," Palestine Post, April 28, 1940) Things were even worse during the pre-1917 Ottoman era, when Easter services in Jerusalem would often turn violent. So despite the fact that Easter participation has significantly increased under Israeli rule, the media cannot resist ascribing anti-Christian motives to Israel.

And yet, Washington Post writer Richard Stearns laments: "While the ancient Christian communities around Jerusalem await the miracle of the Holy Fire this week, I pray for another miracle ― one that would give full religious freedom to the Christians in the West Bank and Gaza."

All this ignores the fact that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population has increased since 1948 ― having risen by more than 400 percent, and continues to rise every year. (The Christian population in Israel was 34,000 in 1949, 73,000 in 1972, and 153,000 in 2008. See Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, 2009.)

By contrast, the rest of the Middle East ― Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Syria ― is characterized by widespread "de-Christianization." Turkey, regarded as a moderate Islamic state, has seen its Christian population decline 100-fold in the last century ― from 20 percent in the early 20th century to 0.2 percent today. In Saudi Arabia, the practice of Christianity is plain illegal.

But for the media, Easter is just another opportunity to vilify Israel.

Published: April 8, 2012


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