As limited clashes with Hezbollah threaten to expand Israel’s war against Hamas, local evangelicals suffer a battle not of their making.
Rabih Taleb looked out from the pulpit at the 30 nervous believers gathered at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Alma al-Shaab in southern Lebanon, located less than one mile from northwest Israel. One day earlier, Hamas terrorists had killed 1,200 mostly civilian Israelis 125 miles south on the Gaza border.
That Sunday morning, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia designated as a terrorist entity by the United States government, fired rockets into the disputed Sheba Farms enclave occupied by Israel but claimed by Lebanon. And as Israel began its massive bombing campaign against Hamas in Gaza, it also shelled Hezbollah positions 35 miles east of Alma al-Shaab.
A few families immediately fled, including the elder who leads worship, forcing the hymns into a cappella. The rest of the congregation pressed Taleb for a shortened service, all eager to return home and prepare for the worst. But the sermon topic—the second in a series on distinctives of Reformed faith—appeared divinely appointed. Little adjustment was needed to discuss original sin, suffering, and pain.
“They ask me: Why are we always facing these difficulties?” Taleb said. “We are believers. Why is there always war, war, war?”
Sources said this was their seventh displacement in the last 50 years.
Alma al-Shaab, one of about a dozen entirely Christian villages near the Israeli border, has a year-round population of about 700 people, Taleb said. Today only about 20 remain, including the Maronite Catholic priest who conducts services—now welcoming all sects—when there are lulls in the fighting.
Taleb and his family left Alma al-Shaab on October 9 when a bomb fell in a field only a three-minute drive from his church, …