Israeli travel restrictions are "hindering our pastors from doing their duties, such as being in Jerusalem to conduct a wedding or a funeral," says Munib Younan, bishop-elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan. "My election was held near Bethlehem even though we had applied for a permit to meet in Nazareth. The government told us the day before the meeting that we could have the permit, but then it was too late."
In an interview with The Lutheran, Younan said that "Israel is allowing Jews to work in the West Bank, but not Palestinians in Jerusalem. Our people smuggle into Jewish areas or walk around the checkpoint. Some Palestinians are even applying for an Israeli passport, but that means giving up one's national heritage."
The cause of the problem, Yo unan said, is Israel's refusal to grant free passage as agreed in the Oslo Accords.
"We are hearing a lot about Jerusalem being a Jewish city, or perhaps Islamic, but no one is saying it is Christian," Younan continued. "The Christians are divided in their voice. The Vatican, which has diplomatic status, is negotiating on civil rights and taxation. The Orthodox community, the largest religious group here, is negotiating secretly. We have to get together."
Only 2.6 percent of the population in Israel and Palestine is Christian, Younan says. The Palestinian birth rate is dropping and the number of Jewish settlers is up. Tourists primarily are Christian.
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