Israeli business newspaper Globes recently ran a feature story on the fast dwindling number of Christians living in Jesus' hometown of Nazareth in northern Israel.
The article notes that while the city once had a strong Christian majority, today a mere one-third of residents are Christians. In reality, Nazareth today is a Muslim city, and local Christians are feeling the squeeze.
Across the Middle East, Muslims view Christians with hostility. But the Muslims of Nazareth have even more reason to hate their Christian neighbors, many of whom are loyal to the State of Israel and even send their children to the Israeli army.
The Globes article quoted a Christian father who wanted to throw his son a party marking the end of his military service, but not a single event hall in town would host the gathering. The party was instead held in the adjacent Jewish town of Upper Nazareth, but was marred by violence when Muslims slashed the tires of a priest who attended the event.
In our January 2013 issue, Israel Today spoke with Nazareth-based priest Father Jubrail Naddaf, who actively encourages young Arab Christians to join the IDF and serve Israel. For his troubles, Naddaf has been excommunicated and targeted not only by Muslims, but also by Israel-hating Christian elements.
A local Christian who became an officer in the IDF and sent his sons to serve as well told Israel Today that he feels safer when on duty then at home in Nazareth, where armed Muslim gangs roam the streets with impunity.
[Israel Today will publish a follow-up on Father Jubrail in an upcoming issue. If you don't want to miss out, SUBSCRIBE NOW]
The author of the Globes article warned that "Israel is losing this quality minority," and must do more to connect to these Christians.
That is undoubtedly true. Unfortunately, it's not an easy, black-and-white issue. Were Israel to very openly embrace these Christians and take a stand for them against their Muslim antagonists, the Muslim outcry would not only be local, but would ripple across the region, possibly leading to open violence against Christians in neighboring states.
Israel certainly can and must do more for these people, especially those who risk everything to serve the state despite the dangers, but the global Christian community must also play its part. For too long, these Christians have been forgotten, or brushed aside, and their plight largely ignored.