DESIGNATION: Hostile (Restricted in Gaza and the West Bank)
BACKGROUND: Israel is home to two very different and divided cultures and people. The decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over land, the status of Jerusalem and the status of Palestinian refugees remains one of the most volatile issues of our time. The Palestinian Authority maintains some control over the West Bank under Israeli federal authority, while the militant Hamas group exercises control in the Gaza Strip.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: The two major religions in the region are Judaism and Sunni Islam.
MAJOR PERSECUTOR: In Jewish communities, Jews who believe in Jesus (Messianic Jews) are persecuted by radical, Zionist Jews. They are also pressured by their families and the government. In Muslim communities, Christian converts from Islam are persecuted by their families, society and the government.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN ISRAEL: Christians in Israel experience pressure from all sides. They have a low social standing and little hope for job advancement. Christian converts from Judaism or Islam are commonly shunned by their families. They have trouble finding a place to live and keeping a job. Messianic Jews have difficulty finding places to worship and getting permits. Radical Jews often protest outside their places of worship, cursing the Christians and vandalizing their buildings. In the West Bank, which has a historic Christian community, Christians live and worship in relative peace if they stay within their communities. However, evangelism by Palestinian Christians can cause problems.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: There are Bible societies in both Israel and the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Christians are allowed to have Bibles.
VOM WORK: VOM supports front-line workers in key regions. We also support training for local churches and help with Bible distributions.