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House of Bread, or city-ghetto?

November 12 2005

According to the Basic Law of the Palestinian Authority, Islam is the "official religion in Palestine", and Christianity (it holds about 2% of the population) and the other monotheistic religions shall be appropriately honored and respected. But now there is a steady decline in the number of followers of Jesus. Formerly Christian towns such as Bethlehem, become Muslim because of the mass exodus of them our co-religionists.

Bethlehem is situated on a hill, so that the center offers a spectacular view of the Bible: the hills covered with vineyards, olive trees and small houses, toys surrounding villages. For any Christian name of the city forever linked with the birth of the Savior. It happened beating two thousand infants by King Herod, is trying to get rid of the "competitor" for the Jewish throne. Such, according to a tyrant, was the infant Jesus.

Nowadays, a typical city ghetto of the Palestinian Authority from 8 thousand inhabitants: a few years ago, mainly Christians, and now - the Muslims. If, before the 1993 Oslo Agreements, providing for the transfer of Bethlehem under the control of the Palestinian Authority, Arab Christians (mostly Orthodox) accounted for 60% of the residents of Bethlehem and were the most educated, affluent part of it, but today it there less than a third. In general, according to the Office of Statistics, Israel, Gaza and the West Bank the number of Christians has decreased over the past half-century from 22% of the total population of the Palestinians to 2% and continues to melt.

The main reason for leaving the followers of Jesus is, above all, in intolerable conditions caused by the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.

The confrontation was reflected even in the main attractions of the city - built on the place of birth Saviour of the ancient Church of the Nativity. Four years ago, spread through the world of sensational news: basil captured by Palestinian militants and the Israelis "utyuzhat" her from the roof of the captured Russian pilgrims' hotel. This case became famous because it does not go into any gates. Indeed, such has not happened in the Holy Land and a half thousand years - since the disastrous invasion of the Persians, are methodically destroying everything connected with Christianity. But the more "minor" problems of local Christians who make up their daily hard life in the Palestinian Authority, as a rule, remain left out of public attention.

Meanwhile, in 2004 alone, resulting in clashes between Palestinian militants and Israeli army soldiers, about 50 families of Christian Arabs from the village of Beit Jala, located between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, were forced to flee, abandoning everything.

Even in periods of "hudna" (Arab-Israeli truce), one of which Palestine is once again going through a life of the local Christians that does not get easier. Not so long ago, two UN agencies - Organization for the Coordination of Charitable Programs and the Office of the Special Coordinator for the peaceful settlement of the Middle East published a report "The Cost of conflict: the changing face of Bethlehem." The report provides statistics for change of Bethlehem in recent years. Over the past five years the city has emigrated 2071 Christian family, that is greater than 9% of the local Christian community. The document's authors blamed Israel Defense Forces in the isolation of the city from the outside world, and the Islamists is that they have consistently pursued a policy of survival of the "infidels" by intimidating them, forcing to sell their homes and emigrate, or move to Islam. One of the tools of survival of Christians has become organized crime.

ifleem are known - a major center of tourism business, where every year thousands of pilgrims seeking not only to venerate his relics, but also empty their wallets. In its narrow alleyways, away from the places of pilgrimage and the areas where the market is, you can fully enjoy the true flavor of the East. Long since the city was famous for its craftsmen, woodcarvers, who converted to olive boards into works of art. They were produced masterpieces, adorned with mother of pearl and jewelry. In memory of Bethlehem, author of the article, for example, took a delightful nacre, with finely carved scene of the Nativity. A first such unique items were presented at the International Fair in New York in 1852. After this, the city has begun mass production of souvenirs. During the existence of this industry, the technology of manufacturing of such products has reached perfection. Now many handicraft shops in Bethlehem offer tourists a huge selection of gifts and jewelry from the Holy Land.

Sale of souvenirs to pilgrims in Bethlehem - as in the other cut by barbed wire and Israeli checkpoints on the outside world cities Palestinian Authority - the main form of earning the local Christian families. But the entire proceeds are often cleaned shovel racketeers, who either because of complacency, or because of the inability of the Palestinian authorities to bring the situation under control, terrorizing the Christian quarters of the city. Islamists use the men from the nearby Bedouin tribe Taamra to "shake" of Christian businessmen. Mining is part of the financing of the fight against the Zionist occupiers, often divided among themselves criminals. From the perspective of the robbers is a fair tax - a "jizya," which "traitors", that is, the Arabs converted to Christianity have to pay the "warriors of Islam."

The document, captured by Israeli forces during Operation Defensive Shield "proof that extremists from the Tanzim - the ones that in 2002 broke into the church Christmas - appealed to the officials of the municipality of Bethlehem with the requirements of cash assistance for their" liberation struggle ". When a well-known Palestinian terrorist Atef Abayat was killed in a car bombing, his fingers were discovered gold rings stolen from a Christian businessman George Nissan. There is quite a common thing - to extort money from businessmen, owners of souvenir shops, offices of real estate brokers and gas stations in Bethlehem. Also, Christians forced to give young girls to marry Muslim Arabs, and those are, of course, Muslims, and protection from anyone find they can not.

Corrupt Palestinian Authority, itself often takes part in the persecution of Christians in Bethlehem who dare to fight back. That's what told WorldNetDaily correspondent member of the Christian family, who owned land in Bethlehem, where they built a shopping center. When a Muslim family took possession of the building and began using it without their permission, Christians appealed to the authorities. After a stormy and lengthy court hearing the complaint of Christians has been recognized as legitimate. But the verdict was not carried out, and later, a new sentence, signed by the same judge, overturned the previous document and legitimize the demands of Muslims on land ownership.

Little has improved in the situation of Christians and the signing of a truce between Palestinians and Israelis in December 2004, one of the stages of which was the withdrawal this summer of Jewish settlements from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.In contrast, after visiting the Palestinian territories, it is difficult to escape the feeling that with the withdrawal of Israeli troops, they are slowly but surely began to sink into chaos. In September 2005, the world's media has bypassed the news: At least 14 houses of Christians - Orthodox and Catholics were burned fanatical Muslims in the village of Taiba in the Palestinian territories. Neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian security forces did not stop the looters. And it is not surprising, because with heavily armed militants of Hamas or Islamic Jihad "militarily weak administration of Mahmoud Abbas is scared of contact.

Meanwhile, as agreed a year ago in Sharm el-Sheikh understandings, under the control of Palestinian "security forces" to navigate not only the four cities with a predominantly Muslim population in the Gaza Strip and West Bank (Jericho, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Ramallah) but Jesus' birthplace - Bethlehem with a large Christian enclave.

Very little hope that the Palestinian police, which Israelis fear the arm for reasons of their own security, could stem the tide of Islamism, which in the beginning of the XXI century covered Palestine after the rest of the Arab world. The presence of the overwhelming majority of Muslims among the population of autonomy identified the emergence of Islamic political movements, political orientation, especially with the turn of the 80-90-ies of the last century, when the financial support of the secular Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) by the Soviet Union and other communist states has become thinner. From the same country full of oil money to Islamic fundamentalist regimes - Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, the contrary, it constantly increases. As a result, the most influential forces in the autonomy of today - is the Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which recognizes only the Koran and the Kalashnikov "as tools of" dialogue "with Israel and" infidels "- the Christians. Hence, the exodus of Christians continues. And if you do not take urgent measures to protect our fellow believers, the Holy Land very soon turn into a "stone museum" of Christianity.

Bethlehem - London

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