Caught in the escalating violence in Israel and the West Bank, Christian leaders are facing grave risks in continuing their ministries. At the Bethlehem Bible College (BBC), dean of students Alex Awad describes the atmosphere as "a pressure-cooker situation."
Although Bethlehem is under Palestinian control, life for Bethlehem's 150,000 residents remains difficult. The college helps families buy food and pay for utility bills and school tuition. "We also have a counseling program in place to offer support for children and adults traumatized by the shellings and shootings," Awad says.
Many overseas Christian groups have stayed away, Awad says, lowering the college's income that comes from academic instruction, conferences, and donations. During the academic year, Awad says, "Many of our students and their families faced periodic bombardment by tanks and helicopters, electrical outages, water shortages, closures, travel restrictions, and other challenges." Still, 15 students received degrees on June 6.
Meanwhile, World Vision reports that Israeli shells damaged its water tank for the town of Salfeet and three other Palestinian villages. After the lethal bombing of a Jerusalem pizza parlor in August, Israel blocked World Vision staffers from entering the agency's East Jerusalem office, which is near the Palestinian political headquarters that Israeli soldiers occupied.
Samia Khoury, a member of the executive committee of the Palestinian Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, says that the number of international visitors to Sabeel has dwindled.
"It is sad and scary to see people gloating over the suffering of other people, whether as a result of the attacks of the Israeli army and the settlers, or whether as a result of a suicide bomber," Khoury says.
"Some of us continue to be scared and to worry daily about our children and grandchildren, and the morality of our people, because we have been left without options."
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