Emigration of Christians from the Holy Land

Christian Palestinians have known a long history of emigration, since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Earlier waves of migration were motivated by bad political and economic conditions in the Ottoman Empire.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has guaranteed relative stability for the Christians there.

The most dramatic migration of Christian Palestinians in the contemporary period started with what the Palestinians call “Al-Nakba” (which means: the Catastrophe) in 1948: the displacement that preceded and followed the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Within the months of the 1948 war, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel, alongside Muslim Palestinians, Christians too fled or were driven from their homes and were not permitted to return after the end of the war.

In 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip and although there was not a massive population migration at that time, Christian emigration never stopped, and their percentage within the population of the Holy Land dropped dramatically from over 10% of the population in Palestine in 1948, to about 2% of the population of the Holy Land today. Emigration continues as Christians see that the peace process is blocked, the Israeli occupation continues, radical Islamic movements prosper and the economic and social situation continues to worsen.

The emigration of Christians today is one of the most important issues facing the Church in the Holy Land.  Many young Christian men and women, often highly educated, think about emigration as the only way to realize their dreams and ambitions which risk being suffocated in the present reality of the Holy Land.