Samir A. Zedan
The Christmas trees of the Greek Orthodox and the Greek Catholic Churches in Sakhnin, an Arab city in Israel’s Northern District, were torched by unidentified people early today.
A prominent member of the local Greek Orthodox church assured this writer that the suspects are local Muslims whom the Israeli police are presently taking steps to arrest. Local Muslims, in an act of solidarity, gathered near the two churches to clean up the debris.
This attack comes after Hamas in Gaza initiated a campaign to restrict people’s interaction with Christmas in Gaza, which was followed by the launch of a social media campaign affirming that Christian holidays are infidel festivals.
The city’s population, mostly Muslim with a small Christian minority, has lived peacefully, while the rate of Christians has declined due to Christian immigration to more Christian-populated cities such as Nazareth and Shefa Amr. Sakhnin has the largest number of Sufi Muslims within Israel, with an estimated 80 members.
Social media reactions reflected the bitterness that many Christians feel in light of the continuing growth of the Islamic movement in Israel, which makes them re-examine their own identity. “ISIS members are still roaming, having fun, and multiplying like snakes. We will see more of that in the near future,” said Ibrahim Khair, a music teacher.
In Bethlehem, Nativity TV posted the incident on its Facebook page, while several social media activists expressed pain and fear about what had happened. “The vessel exudes what is inside it. This is how they express their religious tolerance,” wrote Elyas Gorges whose profile indicates he resides in Qamshileh, Syria.
The Israeli Christian Aramaic Association director, Shady Khloul, expressed his anger as he left the Maronite Church in Jesh, Israel, after attending morning mass. He posted on his Facebook page this statement,
We strongly condemn the burning of the Christmas trees in Sakhnin. These are Arab ISIS members who are frolicking in the country like wolves. Like bandits, they burn and flee. If the Christmas tree is something you don’t like, dare to speak out so we know what to do with you. If it was a Jew, the Christian Arabist Communists would have attacked him like a hornet.
Do not worry and celebrate the feast. It is the birth of Jesus Christ in our hearts. Merry Christmas!
Israel is scheduled for another general election in March 2021, which will be its fourth vote within the last two years. “This incident should be a reminder to the Christians in Israel to vote for the Jewish parties rather than to waste their votes on inept Arab candidates,” said Neveen Makhoul, deputy director of the Israeli Christian Aramaic Association, voicing her anger in a conversation with this writer.
It is worth noting that the Islamic movement in Nazareth launched a campaign of provocation last October, aimed at the Christian community in the city where Jesus lived most of his life, according to the tradition. This began following a French teacher’s use of a drawing of Muhammad in his class.
The photo above shows laser lights projecting Islamic writings (And those who hurt the messenger of God will suffer painful torture. except for Muhammad the messenger of God) that are projected on Mary’s well, where, according to the Catholic tradition, Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, and announced that she would conceive Jesus. This event is known as the Annunciation.
It is tragic that the presence of democracy and freedom of expression in Israel encourages the Islamic movements to show their hostility to Israel and non-Muslim minorities. Many Israeli Muslims have left the country to join ISIS in Syria.
This proves that the Islamic dictatorship will usurp absolute power by using democracy as a ladder to achieve power. Hamas exemplifies this in Gaza, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, while Erdogan intends to become the new undisputed Caliph of Islam.
Samir A. Zedan is a former Senior Counter-Terrorism Analyst at the US Department of State, and a former Development Outreach and Communication Specialist at USAID/Iraq. He has contributed to hundreds of articles published in major media outlets with assignments in the Palestinian Areas, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Europe.