The Christian communities in Jerusalem comprise about 2% of the city's population – though their impact is more than considerable in many ways. The Jerusalem Institute is one of the only local bodies analyzing Christian presence in the city, and in the Holy Land, and the challenges in the relationship between Israel and the churches.
Jerusalem, needless to say, has resonance around the Christian world and Christian leaders have great influence on world public opinion, especially in Europe and the USA – and yet, says Ramon, for the Israeli government this important and sensitive subject is usually low on the agenda. "There are clear advantages to the Christian presence in Jerusalem – particularly related to pilgrim tourism," says Ramon. He notes that no other city in the world can boast the number of Christian denominations found in Jerusalem – Greek Orthodox, Latin, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian, Greek-Catholic, Syrian-Catholic, Armenian-Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Russian-Orthodox, Romanian-Orthodox, and that's not all. Deprecating their presence could result in Jerusalem losing some its inherent attraction and special status in their eyes, he says. Nurturing ties, on the other hand, could have a trickle-down effect in boosting Jerusalem's image abroad, especially during times of political tension. "It is in Israel's interest to encourage that presence. There are benefits for all involved."
In October, a special synod (assembly) of all the Catholic patriarchs and bishops from around the Middle East was convened in Rome to discuss the identity, vocation and mission of the Catholic Church throughout the region – that is, in both the Arab world and the Holy Land. Pope Benedict XVI took an active role in the synod. To spark interest in Israel Radio Vatican set up a web site in Hebrew outlining the daily activities and resolutions during the two-week event. The synod received quite extensive media coverage around the Christian world – though only scant exposure in Israel.
On 15 December 2010, the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, in collaboration with JIIS, the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, and the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations, will hold a symposium to discuss the recent synod. Some of the bishops who attended the synod will participate in the symposium, presenting their impressions with regard to the discussions and the documents that were published, and they will respond to questions and comments of researchers and experts working in this field. The symposium, to be held at JIIS, will be conducted in Hebrew.
A book by Ramon, "Christians in the Jewish State," will be published in early 2011.