Transcript from Interview 20 January 2013
Minor grammatical adjustments made for better understanding.
Okay. So you said that you feel closer to the west then you do here.
No, I mean, as a Christian… For example, I belong to the Catholic Church, so I grown up in the education of the catholic church so when I meet an American or a person coming from Germany or America or whatever part of the world and he is Catholic, I feel, me and him… we are having very similar level… way of education and thinking because both… we have got the same education. So I can understand him. When I visit him, how he do, how he act, I feel very similar to him. When I have some Muslim workers who are working with me eight hours a day, 20 years, when I go to see how they are living in their houses. I see them very far away…
They are distant
And I have to understand how they act and deal. So this is how it is but I am from the same body. I am a Palestinian and he is Palestinian but the culture is completely… it is not the same.
Right. It’s very different. Do you feel like it’s hard sometimes to worship freely as a Christian when so many people around you that are Muslim? Bethlehem has no Jewish really.
No, I mean historically the Jewish never were interested in living in Bethlehem. Historically, I mean, even the Jewish Palestinian before Jewish Palestinian …
Right. Now let me ask, Bethlehem used to be like 80 to 90% Christian and now its what maybe 35% – 40% right?
Even less than this number.
Even less than that percent? So as a minority do you feel like sometimes it is difficult to worship freely?
Look to go to pray… we are free to go and pray but the Islamic culture in the Middle East is coming more violent and coming more and more not accepting of others. Like the Jewish and Muslims in the last few years are more violence, not accepting other religions.
So you don’t think it’s… it’s not so much as a Palestinian - Israeli war as it is a Jewish- Muslim war?
No… no, it is Palestinian - Jewish war. But the problem is the Jewish are growing up not accepting other religions and same thing for Muslims in the holy land. I am not speaking of the Jewish and the Muslim all over the world. I mean in Palestine and Israel they are growing a new generation not accepting others. So I see some Muslim coming with new small kids, not accepting me as a Christian. They can’t understand the concepts and this goes back to a bad education and the same thing when I go to Israel. When they notice I am a Palestinian… it’s going to be completely different when they notice I am an American. So they are growing up to just not accept me as a Palestinian and the same thing can be found in some new Islamic teachings.
Yeah, I am living in a country where we are supporting violence more than supporting living together and this is something becoming dangerous. You have a crazy Israeli government, a completely dangerous world and they want a Jewish state. When speaking about a Jewish state, what do you want to see? What will you do with the other religions who are living door to door in Jaffa, in Tel Aviv, or here. There is a lot of Arabs, there is to many.
There are Filipino’s and many ethnicities. There is many many religions living in Israel and then you go to some crazy place with some new Islamic movement, we want to make an Islamic state. Hey wake up, what do you want to do with the others? So this is what… for example, in the first intifada, a lot of Christian share in the first intifada. They made a revolution against the… You know, I mean, they died! Then, when they discovered that… imagine that you are coming to ask for liberation from occupation and behind you a person is calling for an Islamic state. So a lot of Christians just moved back. “Hey man, just leave me alone.” And the same thing happened to Egypt. They got rid of dictator but now they replace him with an Islamic dictator. So this is what happens to a lot of Christian revolutions in the Middle East.
They find that those of the same ethnic origin don’t agree with…
They hare the same body but they want to create a new Islamic dictator.
And that doesn’t align with what the Arab Christians believe in.
Exactly and what they asked for. I mean, I want to get liberation from occupation to get my freedom but I don’t want to live under another Islamic or Jewish… I mean… Islamic…. dictators. I want a liberal government. I want the government who believe that I am human being and have full rights.
Do you think that is ever a possibility?
I mean… the Christian Palestinians, we are like finished you know. We are strong, but we are small.
How many Christian Palestinians are there do you think?
In the West Bank there is 120,000 and in Israel the same number. We are, in Israel and the historical Palestine, not more than 220,000 people. I mean, it’s a small number compared to the Christians who are living in South America.
Right. Almost all of South America is Catholic.
No, I mean the Christian Palestinian who live in South America from Bethlehem and Beit Jala. We are not less than… in Chile around 250,000.
250,000 Palestinian Christian?
Yes, Christians who live in Chile alone. If you take my family name, we are in Bethlehem 600 persons and in South America 12,000.
Really, I didn’t know that so many went to South America. It thought they went to Australia, to…
No, it started with the Turkish occupation of us. The Christians were facing very hard time during the Turks and this pushed a lot of Jewish and Christian Palestinian to immigrate together in the same ship to South America. Now we are facing the Israeli occupation which is not accepting and wants to establish a Jewish state. So we are living like, you know, you finish from the Turks, you turn to Israeli occupation, then you don’t know if you will get liberation from Israel. We don’t want to be under the occupation of other dictators. We don’t have a clear future.
Right. One last question, if it’s okay?
Ask what you want. I’m free. No tourists in my shop right now. That’s good for you. Next week, tourists.
Its kind of a tough question but in Christianity, Christ gave a commandment to love your enemies. How do you try to forgive and love your enemies when you are an occupied people and feel like you are in a prison?
Yes, I am feeling as a prisoner but I don’t have in my heart a hate towards the Jews in Israel or all over the world because I lived with them and I know them from the inside. They are ready to help and sacrifice as we are. You know, when Jesus said the word Israel… my enemy is not Israel. It is the zionist ideas… the people who want me not to stay here, but there are also a lot of innocent people, I love them, you know, and this is a big world… you know, if you are hit, you should not hate, but wait. And not wait until he kills you, but you have to negotiate in a peaceful way, and try to get your freedom in a peaceful way. You know, I like the way Abu Mazen is trying to do… none violence way, to go to the international law and give it the way. You know, wait, negotiate and forgiveness… I mean, if you want a new home… you have to forgive because if somebody killed some member of your family and you don’t want to forgive you’ll have never a solution. It is like circle. Killing… killing… killing… killing… killing… but this circle should just stop at forgiveness and start a new home.