By Eric Leijenaar, Senior Special Correspondent BosNewsLife
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (BosNewsLife) -- A Palestinian-American evangelical pastor remained in Jerusalem Tuesday, November 6, after fleeing from the nearby West Bank city of Ramallah where, he said, he received death threats because of his Christian activities.
Pastor Isa Bajalia, 47, a US citizen born in Birmingham, Alabama, said he had been threatened over the last two months by at least two men, including one official linked to the Palestinian Authority (PA). He said PA officials told him he had to pay $30,000 "in protection money," if he wanted to be safe.
The pastor has been living in Ramallah, his parents' hometown, since 1991, together with his American wife and son, who attended school in Jerusalem and has since joined the US Air Force.
For the last decade Bajalia served as pastor for a group of up to 35 people in Ramallah, holding Sunday services in private homes and carrying out missionary and humanitarian work among the Palestinians, who are predominantly Muslim.
However not everyone was pleased. "Over the last two month in particular, I've been receiving threats against my life," he explained. "Death threats based on the ministry thrust what's going on in Ramallah." Bajalia said in an interview that the threats come in part from a resurgent Islam in Palestinian areas.
"Their anger from those who are more adamant about their Islamic faith, that for some reason it's just a growing tension that Christian missionaries are just unacceptable." Bajalia filed a complaint with the US Consulate in Jerusalem over the threats, he said.
The consulate, which is responsible for US citizens living in the West Bank, reportedly told him that they were aware of the problem, but had no response or follow-up to his complaint.
The US Consulate had no comment, citing privacy regulations.
Bajalia told reporters he became more concerned for his safety after a prominent Christian activist, Rami Khader Ayyad, 32, was killed in Gaza last month. "It made me take the threats more seriously," he said. He has moved to east Jerusalem, and is uncertain when he will go back to Ramallah.
In an interview with the US-based Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) he urged Christians to pray for Palestinians. The few Christians and Jews living in Palestinian territories have increasingly complained about Islamic extremism.
In an apparent attempt to ease religious tensions, Palestinian Authority officials allowed
tens of thousand of Jews to visit Hebron over the weekend to attend readings from the Torah near the Cave of the Patriarchs.
The compound, located in Hebron, is seen by many Jews Christian, and Muslims as the burial place of four crucial Biblical couples including Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Leah. According to Midrashic sources it also contains the head of Esau, and to Islamic sources, is also the tomb of Joseph.
There were no reports of violent incidents during the events over the weekend. (With additional reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).
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