The campus of Bethlehem Bible College is nestled in the heart of Jesus Christ’s native town. Within this beautiful complex of buildings, Biblical foundations are laid in the lives of many young Palestinian Christians. Last spring, Open Doors met five students, Jwana, Edward, John, Areen and Marcelle, who shared about their dreams and how we can pray for them.
Jwana, in her first year of studies in education, said, “I want to know more about Jesus.” Though she is an evangelical believer, she is getting married this summer to an Orthodox Christian; she added, “But I will continue to go to my church.” Edward, also in his first year of studies, hopes to become a guide for tourists visiting Biblical sites. “I have to study two years of theology, to know the stories and the meaning of the Biblical sites and to explain Jesus’ words.” John, another first year student, knows exactly what he wants for his future. “God has called me to be a pastor.”
Marcelle, in her second year, is studying tourism, and Areen, enrolled at the BBC for three years, is studying mass media. Talking about her frustration, Areen explains, “It is hard for us Palestinians to find jobs. We have to search hard, even after having a master’s degree. There are no real options for me. The only option seems to becoming a teacher. I don’t like it but have to accept it.” She told the Open Doors visitors that she would prefer to work in the area of mass communications. “But you only find these jobs in Ramallah. My father doesn’t want me to live or go there, so it is impossible for me.”
Finding a job for young Palestinian Christians is a challenge. Edward said, “When you have a job interview and they will ask your religion, they would rather take a Muslim than a Christian, even when the Christian is the best candidate.” He reported that even the government prefers Muslims. The other four students agreed with his words.
The students all agreed that sometimes they feel trapped in the West Bank. Living behind the high wall erected by the Israeli government, they face difficulties when they try to travel outside of the West Bank. “The authorities only give permission during Christmas and Easter to go to Jerusalem for pilgrimage. A cousin of mine has cancer; even for him it was very difficult to get a permit to go to an Israeli hospital where they can treat the cancer. In that case, the government gave him a permit for one person for two days only, so he had to go alone,” said Edward. “The Palestinian youth don’t feel free. Sometimes we’re jealous of others who live in freedom. They seem to have a perfect life and can have normal social contacts. I am afraid that even in a hundred years nothing will change here.”
In addition, the youth in Palestine view relationships differently than older generations, especially their parents. Although the youth have fostered mutual acceptance between the different denominations, with their parents this is not the case. “Parents in the Orthodox or Catholic church don’t want us to marry with someone from the evangelical church,” said Areen. “Due to our culture, we will respect our parents in all this. Their ‘no’ means ‘no’.”
Despite the hardships, the young students expressed a continued determination to move forward with purpose. “We must not forget that even though our life isn’t good in Palestine, even though we have little opportunities, we only live once,” Areen said. ”We have to make something out of it.”
Father, we today lift up our brothers and sisters living in Palestinian Territories, especially the youth. They have asked for our prayers, requesting specifically that we join with them in praying for peace in their land and for more freedom in their lives. We also join with them praying for unity between all the churches; that they will have opportunities to get jobs and to realize their dreams; and lastly, the opportunity to meet with other Christian youth from abroad. Father, we lift these prayers up to You. Amen.