Many are leaving to escape the discrimination at the hands of Israel which is the common fate of all Palestinians, Christian and Muslims.
By Peter Oborne | Middle East Eye | Dec 24, 2019
‘Behind the lights and celebrations, we feel that Bethlehem is a big prison, surrounded by settlements and divided by a wall.’
— Pastor Munther Isaac
One week before Christmas. I’m in Manger Square and watching pilgrims descend from buses and make their way to the Church of the Nativity, first built in the fourth century, on the spot where, according to Christian tradition, the infant Jesus was born.
Inside the church I join a party of Spanish pilgrims. We pause to sing carols by Jesus’s crib. There’s no doubting the sincerity or the devotion of those who make the pilgrimage to Bethlehem every year. For me, an Anglican Christian, it is a profoundly moving experience.
But how much do most of these pilgrims know about the small and embattled Palestinian Christian community which survives almost 2,000 years since the death of Jesus?
Located within the Israeli-occupied West Bank, modern Bethlehem is a hard place, with two refugee camps within the city’s limits and Israeli settlements constantly being developed.
The separation wall runs like a scar through the town. Every pilgrim must pass through it to reach Manger Square. Does it disturb them? Do they notice?