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Israel Occupies Devastated Christian Town


28 August 2001

The Christians of Beit Jala, a suburb of Bethlehem occupied by the Israeli army on 28 August, have endured months of terror and desperate poverty, literally caught in the crossfire between Israelis and Palestinians.



For eleven months Palestinian militants have been using homes in Christian-majority Beit Jala as cover from which to fire on the Israeli settlement of Gilo, outside Jerusalem. Local Christians have refused to become involved, "We cannot tell the gunmen to go away. They do not listen. They tell us 'Beit Jala is no better than anywhere else. You should share the suffering of the struggle' " said one. Now the town has been occupied by Israeli armed forces. Sixteen homes have been damaged and a church occupied. "We are back in prison" the same Christian man lamented.

Christians in Beit Jala, who depended upon the tourist industry for a living, have now been reduced to a state of desperate poverty. Most are struggling to find enough food to survive and are living with mounting unpaid bills for basic services like electricity or water. In many places these services have already been cut. Every day Christian families are fleeing Beit Jala; many will never return. Christians in the Holy Land have been described as "the smallest minority in a land of minorities". Innocent victims of an ongoing conflict, soon there may be no Christians at all left in Bethlehem, the place of Christ's birth.

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The Barnabas Fund is sending emergency food packages to the most needy Christian families in Beit Jala. We are also helping to pay their water and electricity bills. Can you help in this desperate situation?

A Barnabas Fund trustee is currently in Bethlehem, sending reports with the sound of gunfire in the background and working to co-ordinate help for the desperate Christians of Beit Jala.

You can make a donation to support the Christians of Beit Jala through a Barnabas Fund office or via our website donation page. Remember to specify Project 377. Click here to support this project: http://www.barnabasfund.org/donateonline.htm