Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Israelis wrap an Israeli flag banner on the uppermost stonework of Damascus Gate. (AP Images/Jacqueline Larma)

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The pastor of Jerusalem’s largest Messianic congregation says the truth about the Palestinian Authority’s recent push for statehood isn’t being told—and he intends to change that.

Wayne Hilsden, senior pastor of King of Kings Community, says most Palestinian Israelis living in Jerusalem would rather remain under the current Israeli government’s jurisdiction than a newly recognized Palestinian state. Hilsden cited a recent survey conducted in partnership with Israel’s Council on Foreign Relations, which found that 35 percent of Jerusalem’s Arab residents would prefer to remain Israeli citizens—and even more would be willing to relocate if their neighborhoods became part of a Palestinian state.

“It’s a message that most of the world is not hearing,” says Hilsden. “And the fact that Palestinians themselves, for the most part, are not overwhelmingly supportive of Palestinian state should tell the rest of the world that maybe a Palestinian state is not the answer to this problem.”

Of the remaining Arab residents surveyed by the council, 30 percent wish to live under a Palestinian state, and 35 percent would not provide responses. But Hilsden, who has lived in Jerusalem since 1983, says it’s the last segment—those who won’t respond—that proves how complex this issue really is. Hilsden says Arab pastors who work closely within the Palestinian territories have found the majority of Arabs would rather be under Israeli rule, but many are afraid to publicly side with the Jewish nation.

“Israel treats them as equal citizens,” Hilsden says. “They’re able to get social benefits that they would never get under Palestinian rule. And if you go to most of the surrounding countries where Arabs live today, you’ll see that they’re living at a lower standard of living than Palestinians living in east Jerusalem and the so-called territories.”

Hilsden leads a community of Jewish and Arab believers in the heart of the world’s most important city and has seen up-close how the international media has misrepresented not only recent events in Israel and reactions from local, but also the supposed “Arab spring” sweeping across the Middle East that has resulted in government upheaval.

“What most people in the West don’t understand is this is not like the iron curtain falling; it’s not like glasnost—it’s not suddenly people want democracy and freedom,” he says. “There are elements of people that simply want to have a good job and be able to put food on the table, and they see the huge dichotomy between the rich and the poor in the Arab world—and they’re fed up with that. So they want human rights. … But there’s also a huge stream of [Islamic extremists] behind this who are taking advantage of the uprising and actually taking control in some areas. And they actually are getting to the point where they're going to lead much of the Middle East into a more autocratic type situation than a democratic type situation.”

Such an approach is disconcerting to Hilsden, who sees an autocratic situation resulting in less freedom. He believes this would make both sides less likely to compromise and come to a peaceful agreement. “We’re talking about Allah and we're talking about Islam and it's not a religion that compromises. They believe in their truth and if its truth, then its uncompromising truth. And so I would say in the natural, peace is less likely the outcome from these uprisings.”

Because of this, Hilsden believes prayer is more essential now than ever. In 2007, King of Kings Community established a Prayer Tower in which teams of believers pray almost continually throughout the week. “The answer is in Jesus the Messiah and the Savior of the world. And we believe the answer is prayer,” he says. “It’s going to take a change in the human heart, the individual's heart to change the Middle East … We want to be able to send a message to the church as well throughout the Middle East that this is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit operating through our ministries … There is no way you can deal with the demonic forces that are hovering above the Middle East without a greater power, which is the power of the Holy Spirit.”

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