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Business News/ News / World/  Oldest Christian community faces ‘threat of extinction’ amid Israel's bombardment of Gaza
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Oldest Christian community faces ‘threat of extinction’ amid Israel's bombardment of Gaza

Israel-Hamas war: Number of Christians in Gaza drops as violence and poverty drive them away. Further attacks on clergy and churches in the West Bank have quadrupled

Israel-Hamas war: A Palestinian woman mourns over the bodies of her relatives who were killed in Israeli airstrikes that hit a Greek Orthodox church, in Gaza City (AP)Premium
Israel-Hamas war: A Palestinian woman mourns over the bodies of her relatives who were killed in Israeli airstrikes that hit a Greek Orthodox church, in Gaza City (AP)

Israel-Hamas war: Amid the war between Benjamin Netanyahu's Israel and Hamas fighters from Palestine's Gaza, a third religious community faces threat of extinction. Palestine's Gaza and the West Bank are home to the oldest Christian community in the world. This community is now on the brink of extinction as Israel continues its incessant bombardment in Gaza, citing “self defense" post the 7 October Hamas attack.

The war, that escalated 35 days ago, took the lives of 11,000 Palestinians in Gaza, and 1,400 Israelis.

When Israeli bombs began pummeling the once-bustling streets of Gaza City, the Christian Community fled to Holy Family Church, the only Roman Catholic place of worship in the Gaza Strip to seek shelter.

World's oldest Christian community on brink of extinction?

According to Al Jazeera report, only 800 to 1,000 Christians are believed to still live in Palestine's Gaza, constituting the oldest Christian community in the world, dating back to the first century.

The broader region of historic Palestine is the birthplace of Christianity, as well as the setting for many of the events in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

In the fourth century, Gaza, located along a major trade route with access to a vibrant port and a cosmopolitan city, became a major Christian mission hub, the report states. 

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After 1948, when the state of Israel was established and 700,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in what became known as the Nakba, more Palestinian Christians joined the community on the coastal enclave.

Estimates have indicated that the number of Christians in Gaza dropped in recent years from the 3,000 registered in 2007, when Hamas assumed complete control of the strip, triggering Israel’s blockade and accelerating the departure of Christians from the poverty-stricken enclave.

Israeli settler attack on West Bank ‘quadrupled’

In the West Bank, Christians are on a stronger footing with more than 47,000 people living there, according to a 2017 census, according to an Al Jazeera report. 

But violence and persecution have unsettled the community there too. 

On January 1, days after Israel swore in the most far-right government in the country’s history, two unidentified men broke into Jerusalem’s Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery and desecrated more than 30 graves, pushing over cross-shaped tombstones and smashing them with rocks.

On January 26, a mob of Israeli settlers attacked an Armenian bar in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, shouting “Death to Arabs … Death to Christians."

A couple of days later, Armenians leaving a memorial service in the Armenian Quarter were attacked by Israeli settlers carrying sticks. An Armenian was pepper-sprayed as settlers scaled the walls of the Armenian convent, trying to take down its flag, which had a cross on it.

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Published: 10 Nov 2023, 10:20 PM IST
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