Why There are Few Christians Left in the Holy Town of Bethlehem
Publisher: Dissident Voice
Date Written: 01/01/2018
Year Published: 2018
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX22542
This is the time of year when they have a chance to break out of an isolation enforced in concrete since Israel enclosed the town with a "separation wall" more than a decade ago.
Most of the foreign pilgrims enter Bethlehem by coach through a gate in the wall heavily policed by Israeli soldiers. They disembark at the church's entrance and most depart for Jerusalem as soon as the event is over.
Nowadays few tourists get to meet or talk to a Palestinian in Bethlehem. Earlier this year, Israel tried to further choke off tourism revenue by warning travel agencies that their groups must not stay overnight in Bethlehems handful of cheap hotels.
Largely sealed off from the world, Bethlehem is today almost as well-known for its graffiti, visible from coaches on the pilgrim trail through the wall, as the nativity. Amid iconic images by Banksy, the famous British street artist, is the handiwork of local paint-sprayers. One message to the world scrawled across the eight-metre-high grey slabs announces: "Merry Christmas from Bethlehem ghetto".
The town now has access to little more than a tenth of its original territory, with homes cut off from farmland, water sources and historic landmarks. A host of ever-expanding Jewish settlements around Bethlehem have been gorging on the rich pickings of their imprisoned neighbours.
Bethlehem's despondency was heightened this month by the decision of US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That declaration has sparked repeated clashes between Bethlehems youth and Israeli occupation forces.