This Christmas, Christians around the world will be singing such Christmas Carols as “O Little Town of Bethlehem” without knowing that in truth, they could soon be singing of a town where you can no longer find the living presence of Christ, the community of those baptized into his body, the Church; “O Lost Town of Bethlehem” could be a more accurate sentiment when Christians awake to find that the Christian presence in this small holy city has, after 2,000 years, come to an end.Really? Israeli policies were forcing Christians out of Bethlehem before 1967 when Jordan occupied the city? Wow, those Jews are really cunning!
The fact is that this is a community that has been suffocating under military occupation, and all the restriction of liberty – particularly separation from family living very short distances away due to the “Wall of Separation” - that this subjection to arbitrary regulations and threat of imminent violence carries with it. The prolongation, decade after decade, of these circumstances, means that Christians are leaving their beloved city to seek places where they can raise their families where they can live, work and pray with the dignity of human beings. This is perhaps an accusation of our failure to willingly suffer all things in Christ. Though our faith has sustained us for many years, yet, failing to see change coming, many, and ever more, opt for places that offer brighter futures.
The hardships of the political situation have severely reduced the Christian population. Certainly, there are some voices in the international press who present this flight as a result of Islamic persecution. This is false. While of course the Christian community of Palestine has problems due to its minority status, as happens to minority populations virtually everywhere, still careful polling of emigrating Christians clearly demonstrates that the primary reason for leaving is the condition of living under the heavy thumb of the military occupation, without rights, of the Israeli government. This is a situation that, in one form or another, has gone on for 62 years.
...It has not always been easy to control my own anger, let alone counsel forgiveness to the suffering and bereaved. Some have been able to hear Christ’s words of comfort. Others think of flight. Israel makes no distinction whatsoever between Christians and Muslims. The glaring fact is that the Israelis want the Palestinian land, but do want the Palestinians, the people who have lived there for thousands of years. And, without restrictions on their power, they act accordingly.Bethlehem's population has been steadily increasing, year after year: 21,670 in 1997, 28,111 in 2004, 29,927 in 2008 (PCBS estimates.) Hijazin freely admits that Israeli policies are equal for Muslims and Christians. Yet the Christian population keeps decreasing while the Muslim population goes up.
So how can it be that Christians are fleeing because of Israeli policies while Muslims are moving in under those same policies?
Hijazin is practicing the usual form of dhimmitude that we see this time of year, where Jews are blamed for Christian suffering and Muslim persecution of the minority population is hushed up.
The only Middle East nation with an increasing Christian population is Israel. There is no way that one can blame Christian flight on Israel while simultaneously explaining the Muslim takeover of the city. Father Hijazin is simply a liar.
Oh, and that claim that Bethlehem Christians have "lived there for thousands of years"? This paper from Bethlehem University has this interesting fact:
[L]arge numbers of the settled Christians including the citizens of Bethlehem were ethnically Arabs of the Ghassanid tribes that had migrated earlier from the Yaman northward toward geographical Syria. Bethlehem's two largest Christian Arab clans/quarters trace their origin to these southern Arabian Christian tribes (the Gassanids). These include Al- Farahiyyah clan/ quarter who trace their origin to the Yaman and to their grandfather, Farah, who came from Wadi Musa in southern Syria (now in Jordan). There is also An- Najajreh, who say that their ancestors came from Najran in Arabia. Likewise, Al- 'Anatreh clan/ quarter trace their ancestry to Christian Arab tribes.There may be some Palestinian Arabs who have lived there since Roman times, but I have yet to find anyone who could claim to trace their family back even a thousand years. On the contrary, the most important Palestinian Arab families seem to have arrived in the last 500 years.