According to a report by Premier, a Christian shop owner named Rony Tabash in Bethlehem has shared his profound faith as a source of strength amidst the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
In a conversation with the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Tabash described the significant impact of the conflict on the lives of Christians in the West Bank.
Tabash expressed the dire situation, saying, “The situation is terrible; it’s not easy at all. Every day, new challenges arise. I’ve never experienced anything like this before, never! It’s a war, not like a war, it is a war.” He noted how the violence has severely affected his business, as the usually bustling tourist spot in Manger Square is now eerily empty.
The economy of Bethlehem heavily relies on religious tourism, sustaining local businesses, including hotels, restaurants, and souvenir stands. Unfortunately, the recent conflict has disrupted these sources of livelihood, leaving many families without jobs and homes.
On a recent Tuesday, Israel launched air strikes targeting a refugee camp in Gaza, aiming to apprehend Hamas commander Ibrahim Biari. The Israel Defence Force (IDF) confirmed Biari’s death but reported injuries and casualties among hundreds of others.
Tabash shared the impact of this violence on the people of Bethlehem, saying, “These days, there are bombs in the sky over Bethlehem – children are scared, my kids don’t want to be separated from our side.” The conflict has forced over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents to flee their homes, leading to a critical shortage of food, medical supplies, fuel, and water, leaving hospitals struggling to cope.
Despite these challenging circumstances, Tabash continues to operate his shop, which stands in front of the Basilica of the Nativity, in an effort to support his family. He attributes his strength and resilience to his faith, saying, “The only thing that sustains me is faith, without faith, I couldn’t continue, not even for a minute. We’ve lost hope – all that’s left is faith.”
He emphasized his commitment to remain in the Holy Land, viewing it as a sacred place. “We’re living in the place where Jesus was born; we can’t leave; if it weren’t for that, I would leave instantly,” Tabash explained. “But as a Christian Palestinian, my mission is to be here, even though every day new challenges come. The war has to end. We are tired – we want peace, only peace for our children and our families.”
Tabash issued a heartfelt appeal to Christians worldwide, asking for their prayers for Christian families in the Holy Land and for peace in the region.
On Wednesday, there was a glimmer of hope as civilians were able to leave Gaza for the first time since the conflict began between Hamas and Israel. At least 320 people, including injured evacuees and foreign nationals, crossed the only open border, heading from southern Gaza into Egypt.
The conflict has been marked by significant human tolls. At least 1,400 Israelis have been reported killed since the start of the Hamas assault on October 7. According to the Hamas-run Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, more than 7,500 Palestinians, including 3,000 children, have lost their lives since then.
The United Nations, which had previously documented these figures, has ceased its counting due to the immense scale of the violence. The situation remains deeply concerning, and the call for peace in the Holy Land is more urgent than ever.