Christians in Israel – Who Are They and How Can We Support Them?

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Christian Arabs in Israel tell their neighbors about their Jewish Messiah – One could probably write a whole book on that sentence alone! Is it true? Are Arab believers telling their Jewish (and Muslim) friends about Yeshua (Jesus)?

We’ve talked to a few of our friends at FIRM Member Ministries who are building bridges between the different ethnic, religious, and cultural groups in Israel. They are overcoming all obstacles with the power of their testimony.

Our friends at Home of Jesus the King Church know what it means to be a minority. Or even a minority within a minority! But they also know how to make a major impact!

loading supplies into van

Christians in Israel

Christians in Israel are a small minority no matter how you look at it. It is estimated that there are 180 thousand Christians in the Holy Land, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. This number does not include Messianic believers in Jesus.

In a country of over nine million people, that’s just a fraction. Almost all of these Christians are Arab, which means that for the most part they live very separate lives from the Jewish majority. Most of the Arab population in Israel is Muslim, with just a small representation of Christians.

But that is not all. Within the Christian community, you will find that most of them belong to the Catholic denominations and the Greek Orthodox Church. A small group of Christian Arabs in Israel are a minority within a minority – the evangelical followers of Jesus.

Arab Followers of a Jewish Messiah

We are continually inspired by the authenticity, humility, and faithfulness of the Israeli Arab Christians. Pastor Saleem Shalash, of the Home of Jesus the King Church in Nazareth, shared with us about the inspiring work his community has been involved in.

“God opened for us many doors to share the Gospel with our Jewish friends. Not by forcing it on them, not by arguing, pushing… no, the opposite. By showing them the love of Yeshua through our humanitarian projects!”

Home of Jesus the King Church has been preparing food packages and clothing for families in need. They share the goods with everyone: Jews, Muslims, and their fellow Christians. Based in Nazareth, they are in close proximity to all.

“We want to show them that it is through their Messiah we are blessed, and we want to bless them in return,” said Pastor Shalash.

food drive assembly line

Christian Arabs and Their Neighbors in Israel

Overcoming any barriers they may come across, the Christian Arabs in Israel are well acquainted with both Jewish and Muslim holidays. Pastor Shalash saw that as an opportunity as well.

“For Purim, we prepare chocolate boxes for children that we distribute in neighboring towns and villages. We approach the families first, to make sure it’s okay and we tell them who we are.”

What is the purpose of such revolutionary generosity? They wait for that one question: “Why are you doing this?”

This opens the door for them to share everything about who they are. Sometimes they share the Gospel, and other times they start a conversation about their values and beliefs. They have built great relationships with their municipality and neighboring communities.

Home of Jesus the King Church tries to take the same approach with their Muslim neighbors, although the challenges are different. But they want to bless them, especially during holidays. With food and clothing available to all, they have visitors come to their headquarters all the time.

Overcoming Challenges

Radical generosity and compassion are not always met with smiles. The caring group has faced opposition from some of the religious communities. The Orthodox Jews don’t like seeing the Arab Christians in their neighborhoods.

“We understand that; we bless them and move on,” said pastor Shalash. “But we don’t stop just because they reject us.”

The situation is more difficult in the Muslim communities. Religious laws of Islam are very strict. If a Muslim person leaves their religion, they must be killed – such is the law of the Koran.

“But still, we come across Muslims who received a vision from God or had a dream. So, we hopeful – we expect a great revival.” Shalash continues.

boxes of food all packed up

Christians in Israel and the Middle East

The great work that Pastor Shalash and his team are doing wouldn’t be possible if not for the religious freedoms in Israel. There is freedom of worship, and you are free to share the Gospel with others.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the number of Christians is still growing. Christianity has been in steady decline in the surrounding countries. According to BBC, this is due to low birth rates, emigration and, in some places, persecution and violence.

Meanwhile, Christian Arabs in Israel are one of the most educated groups in the country. Their social-economic status is comparable to that of the Jewish Israelis – more so than to the Muslim Arabs. Not to mention, the status of women is incomparable, if you look at the entire Middle East.

Support for Christians in Israel

The prophet Isaiah foretold a time, when many nations in the Middle East will be blessed along with Israel. God promises that it will be for a sign and for a witness to the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 19). This promise is for the Arab people, among others.

When we extend our hand to the community of faith, no matter the language or background, we represent the true heart of the Gospel.

“The support we receive through FIRM helps us advance the humanitarian projects we do,” said pastor Shalash with gratitude. “Now we pray for even more workers!”

This article originally appeared on FIRM, October 28, 2021, and reposted with permission.