Bishops from Europe, North America and South Africa who joined this year’s Holy Land Co-ordination reiterated their solidarity with all of Israel’s Christians and called for their equal inclusion in Israeli society.
“Throughout our visit, we have experienced how there are Israeli citizens from many different backgrounds who coexist and work together for the common good of their society. We recognise that Israel was founded on the stated principles of equality between all its citizens. This urgently needs to become the lived reality,” they said in the final statement, issued on 18th January. “We stand with Israel’s Christians and all those challenging discrimination, in support of their call to protect the country’s pluralism.”
The nation-state law, which was passed as one of Israel’s Basic Laws by the Israeli Knesset last July, holds Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and states that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” In addition, it downgrades Arabic from Israel’s second official language to one with a “special” status. Though the law will have little short-term effect, opponents are concerned about its long-term impact, which will depend on the character of future Israeli governments and how they choose to implement the law within government policy. Though Israel has already historically defined itself as the Jewish homeland, opponents say by enshrining it into a Basic Law, they have been effectively relegated to second-class citizens.
Taking place this year in the northern Israeli city of Haifa from 12th to 17th January, the co-ordination focused on the challenges and opportunities for Christians in Israel. The bishops visited Christian hospitals, schools and villages in Israel. They also met with Christian religious leaders, Christian mayors from Israeli towns, members of the Israeli Knesset, academics and people displaced from the Melkite Catholic village of Ikrit.
Picture: Bishop William Nolan of Galloway, Scotland, delivers the homily during Mass in St Jerome’s Cave in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank. The Mass was part of this year’s Holy Land Co-ordination, which focused on the challenges and opportunities for Christians in Israel. (CNS photo/courtesy Marcin Mazur via catholicnews.org.uk).