Christian leaders in Israel are launching a worldwide campaign to
protest Israel’s role in the construction of a large Islamic mosque in
Jesus’ boyhood town of Nazareth.

That’s right. Israel is backing an Islamic plan to encroach on one of
the holiest sites in Christianity.

Church officials are so upset by the Israeli government’s decision to
appease Muslims, they are threatening to close holy shrines to the
public as a protest. They say Israel, so eager to make concessions to
Muslims, has ignored commitments the Jewish state made to Christians,
including Pope John Paul II.

The mosque in question is set for construction next to the Basilica
of the Annunciation, where tradition says the Angel Gabriel foretold
Jesus’ birth. Christians wanted a nearby plot of land for a piazza to
accommodate pilgrims. Muslims, meanwhile, contended that a Crusader-era
Islamic leader is buried at the site and demanded it for the
construction of a large mosque that would overshadow the basilica.

Israel rode to the rescue — of the Muslims. The “compromise”
brokered was the mosque would be built after the millennial year and
using a third of the half-acre plot.

That didn’t sit well with the Vatican. A missionary news service in
Rome reported that the Custodians of the Holy Land are considering
shutting down their holy sites to protest Israel’s refusal to address
their concerns. The group also charges that Christian pilgrims visiting
Nazareth are routinely harassed by Muslims.

A new organization has been created to lead the fight — side-by-side
with the Vatican. It’s called the International Coalition of Christians
and Jews for the Preservation of Nazareth, headed by Ed McAteer, an
evangelical with close ties to the Jewish state.

McAteer sees the Muslim plan in Nazareth as simply part of an overall
strategy of Islamic hegemony in the Holy Land.

“Tragically, over the last year and half, Christian worship places of
all denominations, including Baptist, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Maronite,
etc., have virtually come under siege by Muslim extremists despite the
fact that this city is not considered sacred to the religion of Islam
and has no significance in Islamic tradition,” he said. “The occupation
of the proposed plaza, which sits on part of the ancient town, by the
fundamentalists is an act that is clearly political in nature and has
led to daily intimidation, threats of violence and actual violence
against Christian residents of Nazareth and visitors to Christian
worship sites.”

The city of Nazareth had zoned the site as open space to ease access
and visitor transportation in what has become a very crowded city. The
Nazareth District Court found that the Muslims had no legal or
historical claim to the property. But the pressure continued.

That’s when the Israel Government Land Authority gave permission to
the Muslims to continue their occupation of the plaza and to build the
mosque in the near future. So much for local rule. So much for the rule
of law. Appeasement politics won the day.

Once again, this is a case of Israel bending over backwards to
appease Muslims at the expense of Christians. We witnessed the same
phenomenon with Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon recently — a
pullout that left thousands of Israel’s Christian allies to the mercy of
Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists.

The Muslim campaign in Nazareth is part of an overall strategy to
neutralize or eliminate Christian sites and Christian believers from the
Middle East.

The current Israeli government has shown that it only responds to
political pressure. And now the pressure must be applied by the
international Christian community. I believe they will get plenty of
support among the people of Israel — if not instantly from government

It’s time for Christians and Jews in Israel to draw a line in the
sand by blocking this mosque. It’s time for Christians throughout the
world to lend them support.

“But, Farah,” you say, “What can we do?”

Simple. Write to the International Coalition of Christians and Jews
for the Preservation of Nazareth and ask for a copy of the petition to
stop the construction of this mosque. Do it today. Here’s the address:
P.O. Box 11467, Memphis, TN 38120

It’s time to take a stand, Christians. Your brothers and sisters in
the Holy Land don’t have the strength, the resources or the voice. Be
their voice. Speak out. Lend them your support.

See Joseph Farah’s columns on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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