Last month, the occupation authorities prohibited thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world from visiting Mount Tabor to celebrate the transfiguration of Jesus.
The ban led the World Council of Churches (WCC) to issue a harshly worded statement condemning the infringement on the religious freedom of Christians.
The WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay complained that Israeli authorities were indifferent to over a thousand cars being held up for hours beneath the glaring sun at multiple checkpoints.
Among them was a member of the WWC executive committee. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the WCC has 349 member churches, representing 590 million parishioners.
The Feast of the Transfiguration is one of the most important celebrations of the Christian Orthodox Church. But this did not sway the Israeli authorities, even though they had met with the Orthodox Council in Nazareth only a few days before and agreed that it would take place.
To Rev. Pillay the incident was merely a part of the harassment that is visited on indigenous Christians in Jerusalem, Haifa, and elsewhere in Palestine. He held that the constraints on the life of the Christian community in the Holy Land under the pretext of safety and security were unacceptable.
The Haaretz editorial of 21 August summed up the incident with the headline, “Under Netanyahu, Israel Is Treating Christians with Intensified Contempt.” This shows that Israeli racism is not just directed against Palestinians; it is inherent in the ideology that looks down on everyone the Jews call “Gentiles.”
* A version of this article appears in print in the 7 September, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly