Israel-Palestine – for many “the Holy Land”—is a small sliver of land characterized by immense diversity. Historically it has seen the rise and fall of different civilizations that have left their mark in the abundant archaeological records and even in the culture and identity of Israel’s indigenous populations. Today the region is home to four major religious groups with their attendant denominations, each living in greater or lesser harmony with each other. Geographically, too, one can experience sand and snow, desert and forest, steppe and marshland, all within a few hours of each other.
To this diversity can be added the deep religious and political significance this region has to large segments of the global community, a significance that is not without tensions and ambiguity. Alongside the ancient records of the past stands the legacy of the newly created modern Israel—a state struggling to balance secularism and religious heritage, democracy and commitment to the Jews as an ethnic community. For Christians, with their commitment to the Bible, the land also has its deep significance. In terms of the past it provided the stage and focus for much of Biblical salvation history. In terms of the present and the future Christians must struggle with the meanings of the Bible’s prophetic vision of the future.
In the midst of this ideologically-laden diversity, there is a small community of indigenous evangelical Christians with a complex identity. They have been called “Arabs,” “Israeli Arabs,” “Palestinians in Israel.” Though each title has its truth, we as Nazareth Evangelical College prefer to call ourselves “Palestinian-Israeli evangelicals” to emphasize our ethnic-cultural identity as the Arabs of the historic land of Palestine, our political identity as citizens of the State of Israel, and our religious identity as those committed to the spiritual renewal of the evangelical movement. In each component we relate in different ways to our neighbours: Jews, Muslims, traditional Arab churches, and the global Protestant church.