A Not-so-merry Christmas for Bethlehem's Christian Residents

Yesterday was Christmas for the many Christians who observe the holiday following the Gregorian calendar.  In Muslim-occupied Bethlehem, which Christians revere as the birthplace of Jesus, Christian tourists flocked to the town to celebrate, as the Times of Israel reports.  

Tourism is the economic lifeblood of this town in the West Bank, and for the past two years, the pandemic kept international visitors away.

This year, visitors are back, hotels are full and shopkeepers have reported a brisk business in the runup to the holiday. Although the numbers have not reached pre-pandemic levels, the return of tourists has palpably raised spirits in Bethlehem.

And enjoy themselves the tourists did, filling the Muslim owned hotels, visiting the Church of the Nativity and buying souvenirs from mostly Muslim shopkeepers, thus immediately improving the town's economic fortune as tourism is the town's sole industry.  However, for Bethlehem's Christians, life is difficult.  While life for Christians in neighboring Israel is comfortable and their population increasing, in Bethlehem and surrounding Muslim-dominated areas, the situation is the opposite.  Life has become so difficult that according to the Christian mayor:

But behind the cheery Christmas lights, the demographics tell a different story.

Bethlehem’s Christian population is rapidly disappearing, as members of the community leave in droves for a better life abroad.

Bethlehem as well as nearby Beit Sahour and Beit Jala were 86% Christian in 1950. But by 2016, the Christian population dropped to just 12%, according Bethlehem mayor Vera Baboun, a Catholic who is the first woman to hold the post.


Indeed, Raymond Ibrahim, a Coptic Christian born in America to Egyptian immigrant parents who studies and writes about the Middle East and Islam, has publicly declared much of the world is indifferently witnessing “The Death of Christianity in Bethlehem.”

  • "There are incidents happening constantly... Most times, it is a case of the Muslim community overpowering the minority, which is the Christian community." -- Christian Arab, quoted on condition of anonymity, Israel365News, November 21, 2022.
  • "[T]he leaders of the Christian community in the West Bank are reluctant to hold the Palestinian Authority and their Muslim neighbors responsible for the attacks. They are afraid of retribution and prefer to toe the official line of holding Israel solely responsible for the misery of the Christian minority." -- Khaled Abu Toameh, October 31, 2022.
  • "The only thing that interests the PA is that events of this kind not be leaked to the media. Fatah regularly exerts heavy pressure on Christians not to report the acts of violence and vandalism from which they frequently suffer, as such publicity could damage the PA's image as an actor capable of protecting the lives and property of the Christian minority under its rule. Even less does the PA want to be depicted as a radical entity that persecutes religious minorities. That image could have negative repercussions for the massive international, and particularly European, aid the PA receives." -- Dr Edy Cohen, "The Persecution of Christians in the Palestinian Authority," BESA Center, May 27, 2019.
  • "The fact that the Palestinian Authority continues to make sure that there is a Christian mayor in Bethlehem is only window dressing... It's a show used to convince the world that Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christianity is still a Christian town. It is not Christian. It is Muslim in every regard." -- Rabbi Pesach Wolicki, director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, November 21, 2022.

Why isn't this dire situation reported on?  Discussed at the UN perhaps? Ah, Ibrahim's report continues:

Why is the persecution of Christians in Bethlehem and other areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority so unreported or under-reported? Certainly, it is not because they experience less persecution than their coreligionists throughout the Muslim world, where the bulk of the world's persecution of Christians occurs.

"The attacks by Muslims on Christians are often ignored by the international community and media, who seem to speak out only when they can find a way to blame Israel," wrote the Muslim journalist Khaled Abu Toameh.

Of course!  If you can't blame Israel, if you can't blame the Jews then problems caused by Muslims are ignored.  As Ibrahim further explains:

The bread and butter of the PA and its supporters, particularly in the media, is to portray Palestinians in general as victims of unjust aggression and discrimination from Israel. This narrative would be jeopardized if the international community learned that it is Palestinian Muslims who are persecuting their fellow Palestinian Christians -- solely on account of religion. It might be hard to muster sympathy or a professedly oppressed people when one realizes that they themselves are doing the oppressing of the minorities in their midst -- and for no other reason than religious bigotry.

And so the members of the so called establishment media, who ignore their own prejudices and bigotry against believing Jews, against believing Christians, who falsely -- and arrogantly -- portray themselves to be the voice of the downtrodden, obediently gurgle what they're told; what they want to believe.  Meanwhile the Christians in Bethlehem suffer.

As does the truth.  

Image: PxHere

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