Since the first half of the first century, the Holy Land has been home to Christian communities whose members have played an important role both in the development of Christianity and in the evolution of society in the area. In 1948, with the establishment of the state of Israel, Christians became citizens of a state that defined itself as Jewish. For the first time a Jewish majority held sway over a Christian minority, a new historical reality for both Jews and Christians.
In recent months, the heads of the traditional Christian communities in the Holy Land have clashed with the Israeli civil authorities. Church leaders locally have claimed that “the ancient, indigenous Christian communities in the Holy Land are vanishing fast.” They pointed out, “Today the threat is urgent and existential, with many communities suffering a combination of population decline, intimidation, and challenge for places to live and worship.” According to the Church leaders, radical Jewish Israelis are conducting a coordinated campaign to seize property belonging to Christians, intimidate Christians by means of abuse and violence, and desecrate Christian holy places. They also pointed out that the lack of Christian representation in local government has necessarily led to discrimination against Christians.
On the other hand, the Israeli authorities retorted that the Christians in Israel are the only Christian population in the Middle East that is steadily growing in numbers. Furthermore, they claimed that 84 percent of Christians in Israel were satisfied with their lives as citizens in a Jewish state.
In the light of these conflicting presentations regarding the Christian presence in Israel, one might ask: Who are the Christians in Israel today; what are the challenges they face and what is their future?