Community Stories

The people and communities in crisis

In Jerusalem and beyond, Christians and their communities are vital to the economic and cultural life in the region. Schools, hospitals and civil society in general depend on the health of Christian communities and their institutions.

As the Christian communities come under threat, there is growing human suffering. Lives and livelihoods are in jeopardy.

If we allow these communities to disappear every community in the Holy Land suffers.

Gabi Hani

Restaurant owner

Gabi Hani is a Jerusalemite Palestinian Christian who has run his restaurant, Versavee, in the heart of the Christian Quarter of Old City Jerusalem since 2007. It serves tourists and pilgrims from around the world, local workers and students.

After being hit hard by the pandemic, his doors are back open for business and his mixed team of Muslims and Christians is serving coffee, Mediterranean cuisine and local beers.

“The pandemic was the toughest challenge my business has faced, aside from the ongoing efforts by radicals to force Christians from the area.”

Tensions between Christian business owners and radicals intent on displacing Christians from properties in the Christian quarter remain fraught, if not always apparent on the surface.

“Things are always on the brink of friction, but the radical groups are adept at hiding it – we feel it acutely.”

If radical factions were to force him out of business, Gabi says that he may have to flee Jerusalem – his home from birth – with his family.

Shireen Awwad

Bethlehem Bible College

Shireen is a mother to four children and originally from Shepherd’s Field, outside Bethlehem. According to her father, her family has been there “long enough to have played chess with the Shepherds”.

Shireen is Director for Bethlehem Bible College Community & Development Outreach.

Around 70% of students at the College are women, and their Biblical Studies programme trains future Christian leaders for the region.

In addition to education, the College is active in outreach through their Shepherd Society. The Society’s work in the community ranges from providing vital medical care, small projects, and distributing food parcels to those in need.

Shireen is concerned about the Christian’s existence and unemployment among Palestinians and its community in the Holy Land.  She works through Bethlehem Bible College to ensure that the churches don’t become museums.

Dimitri Diliani

Dimitri is a businessman in Jerusalem.. He has seen first hand the threat posed to Christians by radical groups looking to force Christian businesses out of the city.

To some extent, he says, living in Jerusalem today as a Christian is like living in a segregated society – where there are wide ranging systemic challenges removing opportunity for Christians and Muslims alike.

He believes he may have to leave Jerusalem with his family if further Christian land is taken by radical groups.

“It would be a disaster to Christian heritage to have a city full of churches but no Christians to worship in them.”

St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital

St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group is the only charitable provider of expert eye care in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, treating patients regardless of ethnicity, religion or ability to pay. In 2019 the hospital’s outpatient department in Jerusalem treated over 33,000 adults and over 16,000 children. The hospital, with its clinics in East Jerusalem, in the Old City of Jerusalem, on the West Bank and in Gaza, is a vital part of the region’s health system – an invaluable Christian institution in the Holy Land.

Across the Holy Land, Christians who represent just 2% of the population provide 30% of humanitarian services.