JERUSALEM, Israel – A Palestinian Christian organization near Bethlehem is under fire following a visit from Israeli rabbi and politician Yehudah Glick.
The backlash began on Monday when Glick posted a picture on Facebook of him visiting the Beit al Liqa organization. He is seen posing alongside dozens of German tourists who were visiting the Christian non-profit. Founded in 1996, Beit al Liqa serves local Palestinian families through faith-based programs.
Glick says he was at Beit al Liqa to “privately meet with some friends,” but was invited to talk to the tourists about his own nonprofit work dealing with orphans and widows.
“Tourism is back,” Glick wrote in the Facebook post. “Talking to 50 German tourists in Bethlehem house of peace.”
The post quickly drew controversy online with some on social media calling Glick an “extremist” and the Beit al Liqa organization a “traitor” to the Palestinian people. Glick is known for regularly praying on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is considered by Palestinians to be a strictly Islamic holy site.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group called the meeting a “national crime” and the Palestinian Authority ordered the Christian organization to shut down operations for a week while it investigates Glick’s visit.
Beit al Liqa denied that it invited Glick to speak, and said the German tourists were there to listen to a speech given by Pastor Johnny Shahwan, the chairman of the organization’s board of directors.
“At the end of the speech, an unidentified person suddenly entered, and we only learned today through social media that this person was the Zionist extremist Yehuda Glick,” the organization said in a statement. “At the end of the meeting, the German group leader asked to take a group picture, and this strange person came and stood next to Johnny Shahwan. We affirm that we were not aware of the presence of this extremist Zionist and that he was not part of the program.”
Glick says the Christian group is being intimidated by Palestinian authorities and Pastor Johnny specifically is being persecuted.
“Ever since then Pastor and his family have been suffering attacks. The PA closed down the hostel surrounded it with armed soldiers and have arrested him. His family are very frightened,” Glick said in a statement.
CBN News could not independently confirm Pastor Johnny’s arrest at the time of publishing.
The Palestinian Supreme Presidential Committee for the Follow-up of Church Affairs also condemned Beit al Liqa and said it was working with “all the security services and legal authorities” to take “the necessary measures” against Beit al Liqa.
CBN News has previously reported on the persecution many Palestinian Christians face under the Palestinian Authority.
Earlier this year, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas called on Christians to oppose Israel in a meeting with Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem.
“We know that the prime Zionist goal is emptying the land of its Christians and Muslims,” Abbas said. “They don’t want anyone here other than themselves. The Christians before the Muslims, because the Christians were here on this land before the Muslims.”
Abbas’ comments aired on Palestinian television and were shared by the Israeli NGO Palestinian Media Watch.