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Opinion: Why are Christians abandoning Bethlehem?

If Jesus were born today in Bethlehem and his parents wanted to take him to Jerusalem to visit a holy site, they would likely be barred from doing so

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Fireworks light the sky over the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Dec. 4.

Fireworks burst over the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square in the West Bank town of Bethlehem during the lighting of the Christmas tree, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.

Maya Alleruzzo, Associated Press

Consider the irony if Jesus were born today in Bethlehem and his parents wanted to take him to Jerusalem to visit a holy site. They would likely be barred from doing so. First, they would be living in a condition of Israeli occupation, required to apply for a permit, face a 24-foot-high barrier wall, and go through numerous checkpoints along the way. The same would be true for any Palestinian Christian. (Maybe in some ways not so different than 2,000 years ago, when it was the Jews who were subject to the domination of Rome).

Today, Palestinian Christians feel abandoned by Christians in America — a sort of modern day “because there was no room for them in the inn.” South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it clearly: ”It is unconscionable that Bethlehem should be allowed to die slowly from strangulation. Bethlehem’s residents increasingly are fleeing Israel’s confining walls, and soon the city, home to the oldest Christian community in the world ... (from some 90% of population in 1950 to 10% in year 2020) ... will have little left of its Christian history but the cold stones of empty churches.”

Warren S. Wright

St. George