Introduction / History Palestinian Arabs fall into a category classified as Levant Arabs. "Levant" is a broad term that includes several groups of Arabs: the Jordanian, Palestinian, Iraqi, Chaldean, and Syrian Arabs. Today, several hundred thousand Levant Arabs live along the northern edges of the Arabian Desert. They are spread from Israel to Kuwait and as far east as Iran. Small groups can also be found in North Africa.
Most scholars consider Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula to be the original Arabs. Tribes of nomads and villagers who lived in the Arabian Desert developed the Arabian culture. It was also from there that Arab migrations began, eventually leading to the expansion of the Arab world.
The Palestinian Arabs have had a close association with Islam throughout their history and today, most are Muslims. However, there has long been a sizable contingent of committed Christians among the Palestinian Arabs. The two main branches of Islam in the region are the Shi'ites and Shafiites. Palestinian Arabs speak an Arabic language called Mashriqi, with various local dialects.
What are their lives like? Palestinian Arabs typically live in villages located near fertile regions; however, they can also be found near mountain foothills in less arid regions.
Although Palestinian Arabs have settled in towns or villages, they are still tribal in nature. The various tribes are ruled by sheiks (Arab chiefs that are considered to be experts in Islam and in relating to the outside world). Their fortress-like villages can be easily defended. Each house has windows on all sides and is built facing the outside of the village. All goods and persons passing through town are strictly controlled.
Individual dwellings tend to be elaborately decorated, flat-roofed homes called "town houses." Lime wash and brickwork are used around the windows as a form of artistic design. The rooms usually have some type of carpeting, and when entering the house, one must leave his shoes at the door. The walls are lined with mattresses and cushions to sit on and lean against. A main reception room and a kitchen are located on the top floor. The flat roofs are used by the women for drying laundry.
Social life is extremely important to Arabs. They like to share a daily coffee time by sitting on the floor and drinking coffee from cups without handles. Their diet basically consists of wheat bread and porridge made with boiled meat or chicken.
Despite Islamic teachings on equality, different classes of Arabs still persist. The type of clothing worn has become one of the determining factors. Palestinian Arab tribesmen dress differently than other villagers and can be easily recognized. The women wear veils both in town and at home. Boys show that they are becoming men by changing their headgear and wearing daggers.
Muslims are allowed to have up to four wives but most marriages among the Palestinian Arabs are monogamous. In the past, all marriages were arranged by the parents; however, it is becoming more acceptable for young people to choose their own mates.
In recent years, many of the Arabic Jewish Arabs have settled into mountain villages where they raise grains, vegetables, coffee, melons, dates, mangoes, and pomegranates. Domestic animals are kept to supply milk and eggs.
What are their beliefs? Virtually all Palestinian Arabs are Muslims. Islam is a religion of works that is based on five basic "pillars" which are (1) A Muslim must affirm that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet;" (2) He must pray five times a day while facing Mecca; (3) He must give generously; (4) He must fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year; and (5) He must try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca in his lifetime.
Islamic laws have greatly influenced the lives of Palestinian Arabs. For example, to preserve their people, they are only allowed to marry those inside their own group. The tribes living in the mountainous regions have intermarried the least with other Arab groups. Their society, like other Islamic communities, is patrilineal. This means that inheritances are passed down through the males. In this system, boys inherit more than girls. Since children are considered a family's greatest asset, females are valued for their ability to bear children.
What are their needs? There is a great need for the Gospel to be preached among the Palestinian Arabs.
A Muslim who professes faith in Jesus Christ can lose his family, his honor, his job, or even his life. Evangelization efforts among these tribes are challenging due to restrictions in many of the countries, as well as general antagonism to Christianity. Prayerful intercession is the key to reaching them with the Gospel.
Prayer Points Ask the Lord to send forth willing laborers to live and work among these tribes.
Pray that God will raise up faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Palestinian Arabs.
Ask God to give Palestinian Arab believers opportunities to share the love of Christ with their own people.
Pray that their traditional Muslim culture will soften, creating open doors for the Gospel to be preached among them.
Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Palestinian Arabs. * Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group's primary language.