I guess I haven't been paying attention the past few years. I didn't know that Israel has destroyed life for Christians in the town of Bethlehem to the point that Christians have left in a "massive flight."
Bethlehem - Manger Square
WorldNetDaily has this story, and I found it via AmerIsrael. According to WND's Aaron Klein, Reuters, the GuardianUK and others, are in the habit of reporting, each year at this time, the terrible treatment of Christians by Jews in Bethlehem. If you do not have time to read the portions below, or time to go directly to WND to read the entire piece, read the three paragraphs in bold text below, and you will get the idea.
TEL AVIV – Like clockwork, every year at this time reporters file misleading and, in some cases, outright false reports about the state of Christmas in Bethlehem [blaming Israel for the demise of the Christian population].
They claim Israeli policies have wreaked havoc on the city's economy and that Israel is responsible for the massive flight of Christians from Bethlehem. Yet the news media completely ignore Muslim intimidation and get their facts wrong on documented history and the true state of affairs in this ancient town.
A widely circulated Reuters article, for example, laments "Christmas cheer hasn't spread to all of Bethlehem's residents," squarely blaming "an Israeli wall" for the town's misfortunes. Britains' Press and Journal also paints a dismal picture of Bethlehem, claiming the city is "divided by a huge wall" and that the "26ft-high security wall completes the isolation of Bethlehem and prevents it from ever expanding." The piece also wrongly states that about 2 percent of Bethlehem's population is Christian.
An opinion piece by Austen Ivereigh in the London Guardian, meanwhile, also claims Bethlehem is "shuttered and depressed" by an "Israeli separation wall."
"I don't just mean the structure itself – 30 feet high, bristling with watchtowers and formed of grey concrete slabs – but where it is built, deep into the town itself, far into the West Bank, severing Bethlehem from Jerusalem and ensuring the relentless expansion eastwards of Jewish-only settlements built on land seized from Palestinian farmers," the Guardian piece claims. Regarding the "wall" that "surrounds" Bethlehem: Israel built a fence in 2002 in the area where northern Bethlehem interfaces with Jerusalem. A tiny segment of the barrier, facing a major Israeli roadway, is a concrete wall that Israel says is meant to prevent gunmen from shooting at Israeli motorists....
Amazingly, Ivereigh's piece in the Guardian falsely claimed: "Bethlehem is shuttered and depressed not because of Koran-wielding thugs but because the wall has smashed its economy. The town has become a ghetto, severed from lands to the north and west by the wall, and to the south and east by settler-only roads and a forest of checkpoints, leaving it barely able to trade."
Simple demographic facts disprove this contention entirely. Israel built the barrier seven years ago. But Bethlehem's Christian population started to drastically decline in 1995, the very year Arafat's Palestinian Authority took over the holy Christian city in line with the U.S.-backed Oslo Accords.
Bethlehem was more than 80 percent Christian when Israel was founded in 1948. But after Arafat took control, the city's Christian population plummeted to its current 23 percent. And that statistic is considered generous since it includes the satellite towns of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. Some estimates place Bethlehem's actual Christian population as low as 12 percent, with hundreds of Christians emigrating each year.
As soon as he took over Bethlehem, Arafat unilaterally fired the city's Christian politicians and replaced them with Muslim cronies. He appointed a Muslim governor, Muhammed Rashad A-Jabar, and deposed of Bethlehem's city council, which had nine Christians and two Muslims, reducing the number of Christians councilors to a 50-50 split.
Arafat then converted a Greek Orthodox monastery next to the Church of Nativity, the believed birthplace of Jesus, into his official Bethlehem residence.The City of the birth of Christ, the birth of King David, and the tomb of Rachel is under Palestinian governance, and has a Muslim majority population.
Suddenly, after the Palestinians gained the territory, reports of Christian intimidation by Muslims began to surface.
Christian leaders and residents told this reporter they face an atmosphere of regular hostility. They said Palestinian armed groups stir tension by holding militant demonstrations and marches in the streets. They spokes of instances in which Christian shopkeepers' stores were ransacked and Christian homes attacked.
They said in the past, Palestinian gunmen fired at Israelis from Christian hilltop communities, drawing Israeli anti-terror raids to their towns.
In 2002, dozens of terrorists holed up inside the Church of the Nativity for 39 days while fleeing a massive Israeli anti-terror operation. Israel surrounded the church area but refused to storm the structure....
Some Christian leaders said one of the most significant problems facing Christians in Bethlehem is the rampant confiscation of land by Muslim gangs.
One religious novelty store owner recently told WND that Muslim gangs regularly deface Christian property.
"We are harassed, but you wouldn't know the truth. No one says anything publicly about the Muslims. This is why Christians are running away."
In 2007 the city had approximately 25,000 residents with Christians making up 20% of the citizenry. With life made difficult for Christians, and the fact that Christians propagate at a much slower rate than Muslims, the Christian presence in Bethlehem is dwindling.
Read about Christmas observances by Christians in Bethlehem here and about the Church of the Nativity and the birthplace of Christ here.