Dec 31, 2008

The Israeli Targets And The Christians Of Gaza

By Chuck Missler

The war fires burn in Israel again as the IDF targets Hamas security installations and smuggling tunnels. While Hamas hides among civilians, those civilians get caught in the cross-fire, and Israel gets criticized for being a bully. Yet, there is another group in Gaza who needs our prayers, a group that has been perhaps doing more toward peace than any other – those who run and attend Christian schools in the territories.

Israel has had nothing but trouble from the Gaza Strip since unilaterally dismantling settlements and pulling out in 2005. Islamic fundamentalist groups immediately started firing rockets into Israel in celebration – and used the destroyed settlements as their launch pads. The Palestinians voted the terrorist group Hamas into power in January 2006, and Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority's Fatah leadership in June 2007.

In the West Bank, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has increasingly cooperated with Israel toward security, and Ramallah's economy has recovered since the last intifada, complete with thriving shops and restaurants. During the same time, Gaza has descended into a war zone.

Defense minister Ehud Barak told reporters, "We have nothing against the citizens of Gaza, but we must fight against the Hamas leadership. We are making great efforts to prevent civilian casualties… We are not preventing humanitarian aid from entering the Gaza Strip."

While pictures of a father burying his small children have wrenched the hearts of the world, and especially those Palestinians protesting in Gaza and the West Bank, Israel has specifically targeted Hamas itself. Most of the people killed in Gaza when the bombing started Saturday were policemen and militiamen belonging to Hamas' armed wing, Izaddin Kassam. The air raids destroyed Hamas security installations and smuggling tunnels from Egypt, from which Hamas has been able to sneak in weapons. A mosque and a TV station were also hit.

Top Hamas military leader Ahmed Ja'abri - the commander of Izaddin Kassam - may have been killed at the mosque he frequented. Tawkif Jaber, the director-general of the Hamas-run police force and Hamas security force commander Ismail Ja'bari were reported dead.

Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told reporters Monday that Israel is working to avoid hurting civilians, while "Hamas is looking for children to kill."

Livni said, "Hamas is targeting deliberately kindergartens and schools and citizens and civilians because this is according to their values. Our values are completely different. We are trying to target Hamas, which hides among civilians."

Livni told Al-Jazeera that Israel had warned civilians near targeted buildings to leave the area for their own protection.

In the meanwhile, few people out in the world consider the plight of Christians in Gaza. Of the 1.3 million people in Gaza, a small number - approximately 3000 - are Christian (mostly Catholic and Greek Orthodox.) A very small group of the Christians in Gaza are American and other Western Christians who have set up Christian schools for Palestinian children.

These teachers/missionaries are in a unique position. Israel will give Christian teachers visas to enter Israel, and while Israel won't allow them to teach Jewish children, the Jews do not stop Christians from teaching Palestinian children. The Palestinians do not have the authority to kick the Christians out (since Israel gave them visas), and so the Christians have been able to set up American-styled schools in the territories. Muslim Palestinian parents are willing to send their children to these schools because they want them to learn English and get a good education so they can have better lives.

Yet, Gaza is not a particularly safe place for Christians. There have been several attacks on Christian schools during the past year or so. A school run by the Palestinian Bible Society was attacked in May, its security guards beaten and its bus stolen. The manager of Gaza's Bible Society bookshop, Rami Ayyad, was kidnapped and killed last year, and a bomb was set off in the Gaza City's YMCA library in February, destroying nearly 10,000 books used by the high school and university students.

Right now is a time of both great danger and great opportunity for these Christian teachers. The general lawlessness and now fiery anti-Israel / anti-Americanism in Gaza makes them targets. At the same time, the Holy Spirit works in these schools, and can use even dangerous times to reach Muslim children through the message of Christ taught in their classes.

Keep these schools, teachers, and students in your prayers, that the Prince of Peace might work in the hearts of many Palestinian Muslims through the Christians in their midst. And, of course, continue to pray for Israel.

Related Links

'Hamas Chief of Staff May Be Dead' - The Jerusalem Post
Wartime in Gaza: The Worst Anti-Israel Charges You'll Hear - Haaretz News
Barak: This Is 'All Out War' On Hamas - The Jerusalem Post
Israel Slams Media Bias, Netanyahu Joins PR Efforts - Arutz Sheva
Unknown Assailants Attack Christian School in Gaza - Compass Direct News
Gaza's Christians Fear the Future - Middle East Times
West Bank Anger at Gaza Strikes - BBC
Israeli Assault Targets Symbols Of Hamas Power - AP