A Palestinian Christian visits an Evangelical Festival Abroad - Part 1
The other day, a friend told me about an Evangelical festival  taking place in one of the major cities I was visiting. It was sponsored by more than 150 Evangelical churches in that city. She encouraged me to visit but also warned me that it might be more supportive of the Jewish people than Arabs, and more specifically Palestinians. I was intrigued and off I went.
The festival took place in the center of town and as I walked through the main entrance, I was given a booklet (more like a fancy magazine) with all the programs and events taking place that weekend. As I walked through the facility, I could see hundreds of people attending a mission session, others sitting in the corner cafeterias, while others were standing at each door with the very familiar welcoming smile you see at church services and events.
Then I reached the exhibition hall where ministries displayed their missions, visions and programs. Many times, these exhibitions give good insight about that Evangelical community. For example, I could tell that this community loved the outdoors because every other table had either a camp or conference held in nature.
As I passed the first rows of tables, I started to realize what my friend warned me about. I didn’t have an agenda other than seeing for myself who and what work was displayed, especially ones related to my context. So, as I approached Israel/Jewish focused tables, I was hospitably handed brochures and information. I tried to keep a friendly face, but at some it was hard not to be surprised at the sight of an Israeli flag - the appropriation of a symbol that did not necessarily represent them in a Christian festival. The Jewish symbols did not bother me as I am used to seeing them displayed in the Old City of Jerusalem and some Messianic Jewish Congregations.
Many of these ministries were familiar to me. They are mainstream ministries that focus exclusively on the Jewish people -- a combined mission of evangelism and eschatology -- with varying levels of Christian Zionist views. At one table, I couldn’t help but stop and grin because I actually recognized one of the women in their roll-up poster. This table had a complete model of the Jewish Temple along with an Israeli flag and the country’s flag behind the Temple. I had a friendly conversation with the lady there about the woman in their poster. She boasted that they organize huge festivals during Jewish holidays for Christian Internationals. “Yes, I am well aware of it,” immediately remembering that they actually invite the Israeli Prime Minister himself as a key-note speaker.
In my mind, I was debating the right response to her while all I could think was, “How could this nice Christian lady be in support of a politician who is responsible for so many deaths and the suffering of my people? Even more, how can she think God is on one side of the conflict while excluding the other?” As a Christian, I am unable to understand such a theological perspective of a God overlooking injustices of people in his name, and as a Palestinian I felt irrelevant to her ministry or her concerns. I noticed this when I went home and examined the brochure.
The next table with an Israel-focused mission had a Star of David logo pressed on a map of Israel, one where the West Bank and Gaza is included as part of the map, yet labeled as Israel. Naively, I thought they should update their logo to have the correct geography of Israel, but the more I read about them, the more I realized they actually believe the West Bank and Gaza are part of Israel. This logo is a blatant political statement and I couldn’t stop my wandering thoughts: “Wouldn’t that be considered anti-Semitic if another ministry had a similar logo but Palestinian-focused mission? What about me and my people who number almost as many as the Jews living in that geographical entity?” As a Palestinian, I felt invisible.