Palestinian Christians: ‘Thank God for the Iron Dome’

Even one death from the Palestinian Christian community would be too much for the dwindling community.

By Sveta Listratov, TPS

In the aftermath of Saturday night’s Iranian missile attack, Palestinian Christians living in the Bethlehem area expressed gratitude for Israel’s air defense system.

“I said, ‘Thank God for the presence of the Iron Dome system.’ It absolutely saved lives here. We don’t have any safe rooms to guard us, so if a rocket would fall here, there would be a great number of casualties,” an eyewitness from the Christian community of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, recounted to The Press Service of Israel.

The resident, a middle-aged man who is married with children, spoke to TPS-IL on condition of anonymity because he fears his family and business will be targeted by Palestinian Muslims.

“In the beginning, we thought it would be like usual, Iran just talks,” he recalled. “Then in the middle of the night, I went to the balcony and saw the rockets of Iron Dome were coming out. I live in the area near some Jewish residences on one side and on the other are all Arab residences, and the rockets were coming right towards them. That’s when I witnessed the interception.”

The missile defense he saw was not the well-known Iron Dome system, but the Arrow-3, which is designed to intercept ballistic missiles at high altitudes, even outside the earth’s atmosphere.

“As a Christian, we are a minority group here, and one loss equals thousands because of the statistics and the ratio against the Muslims in the area, so the damage I imagine could have been even greater,” he insisted.

“My perspective is that the technology Israel uses is proven to save lives of people not only from the Israeli side but also Arabs from the other side of the fence, and it’s important to acknowledge and thank God for that,” he added.

Elias Zarina, a Jerusalem-based Christian activist, told TPS-IL he looked at the high-tech protection through the lens of coexistence.

“David’s Sling guards the City of David,” Zarina remarked, referring to the name of Bethlehem from the Christian Bible.

Zarina is the co-founder and community manager of the Jerusalemite Initiative, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit that encourages Arab Christian integration into Israeli society.

“In the face of adversity, Israel’s defense systems give hope for all who seek peace and security in this region,” Zarina stressed. “Israel demonstrated the commitment to safeguarding all residents, regardless of their background and beliefs. That’s the idea of coexistence among diverse communities in this land.”

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On Saturday night, Ofir Gendelman, a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted a video clip of an Iranian missile being intercepted above the Temple Mount.

“Iran launched tonight ballistic missiles at Islam’s holy places in Jerusalem. Watch Israel’s Iron Dome batteries intercept them and save the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque from Iran,” Gendelman tweeted.

Palestinian Christians in Judea and Samaria have been facing discrimination and harassment for years, forcing members of the community to leave the Middle East.

Zarina, who has been researching the Holy Land’s Christian communities, told TPS-IL in January that their population has been dwindling ever since the Oslo accords brought the Palestinian Authority into power.

Citing Bethlehem as an example, he said that in 1993, when the accords were signed, Christians made up 88 percent of the city’s population.

Three decades later, Christians now make up just 12 percent of Bethlehem’s population of roughly 29,000.

He told TPS that most Christians have emigrated in the face of Muslim extortion.