I was unaware until my trip to Israel in October 2016 that approximately 25% of Israelis are Arab. Arab Christians number among them, and we were honored to attend Mass at Our Lady of Fatima, a Catholic church in Beit Sahour, a Palestinian town just east of Bethlehem in the West Bank. The service was completely in Arabic, but the enthusiasm of the worshipers there and the warmth of their welcome for us touched my heart.
Hearing the words of the Mass spoken in a different language reminded me of the story of Pentecost found in Acts 2: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
The Arab Christian population of Bethlehem and the surrounding area is dwindling because of the poverty and lack of opportunity there. Many are leaving in order to find a better life. It would be tragic to lose a Christian presence in the birthplace of Jesus.