Bethelehem is ideal, not really so. Read on:Midway through this century, Christians comprised about 80 percent of the population of Bethlehem. Christians now make up less than 15 percent of the town. This is a trend that mirrors the Christian flight throughout the Palestinian Authority. However, this exodus began long before Israeli checkpoints and the security wall. It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of the Christian population fled during the time when Jordan occupied the West Bank. The Christian population under the Palestinian Authority has suffered from a negative growth-rate and now number less than 50,000, or about 2.4 percent of the population. In fact, the Christian population throughout the Middle East has been in rapid decline. In 1900, Christians comprised 20 percent of the population of the Middle East; now, they are less than 2 percent. While the Muslim population has expanded rapidly in Europe and the U.S., Christians in the Middle East have experienced a negative population-growth rate. The only country noting a positive growth rate for Christians is Israel. In Israel proper, the Christian population in 1948 was 34,000. Christians now number 146,000, or 2.1 percent of the total population. Projections are that by 2010 the Christian population in Israel will reach 163,000, reflecting an average yearly growth-rate of 1.9 percent. Among non-Jewish students in Israel, the rate of high school graduation is highest for Christians. Employment rates for Israeli Christians remain much higher than for their fellow believers in the Palestinian territories. Christian residents of Bethlehem and its suburb, Beit Sahour, have faced severe economic hardship since power was transferred to the Palestinian Authority, which is now led by a Hamas government. The unemployment rate in Bethlehem is 65 percent. Continual marginalization of Christians has increased tensions, making Christians feel even more vulnerable to their Muslim neighbors. Christians report that Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. Death threats, warnings for Christian women to veil, and extortion to gain land are sadly part of the landscape for Bethlehem?s Christians.
from the article: Abbas swears in Hamas-Fatah unity government