I saw something of Bethlehem, staying there for six nights. I was given to think of my father who, as a soldier during the First World War, spent a night in the church of the holy nativity, a man dying beside him, whose bloody boots my father inherited. I wonder what he would have thought now of the outcome to which the Balfour Declaration of 1917 might be said to have eventually led.

The total population of the Bethlehem area is 180K including the three refugee camps; 29.9K in the town itself. Of these there is a population of 70K settlers in 22 settlements. The town was at one time unusual in that, for generations, there was a 50% population of Arab Christians. Unfortunately that has largely evaporated in recent years. There are a number of reasons for this. The birth rate is lower among Christians. Generally they have more Western connections, so it has been easier for Christians to leave. Again, it tends to be the young and educated who emigrate. Research has concluded that 87% left because of the occupation and only 13% on whatever other ground; thus it is clear that it is the occupation which is causing the exodus and it is not on account of Moslem persecution. Many say that, should the occupation end, they would return.

Bethlehem has, over time, been a model of co-existence of Christians and Moslems. It would be convenient for the Israelis that the Christians should leave. Then they can say that it is a Jewish/Islamic conflict in which they are engaged, and that the problem is Islam. But Christians share the fate of their fellow Arab Muslims: to the Israeli regime they are all simply ‘Arabs’. Meanwhile they are associated by Moslems with the Christian West. The disappearance of Christians in Israel/the occupied Palestinian territories is moreover part of a general exodus of Christians from the countries of the Middle East, where - since ever - they have had a notable presence.

See Further on this Site:

- Checkpoints

- Education; Universities

- Wall

  1. -On the Balfour Declaration:

  2.     - History & Background

  3.     - Solutions?, British/European Responsibility.

View of Bethlehem from the restaurant

at our hotel

Crusaders’ Entrance, Church of the Holy Nativity

Street Scene