The pilgrims will be there as midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity is again broadcast live around the world this Christmas Eve -- but the town of Bethlehem is fast losing its last few year-round Christian residents.
Christians are fleeing the town of Christ's birth, and the much-reported hardship that Israel inflicts on residents of the West Bank town has little to do with it. It's the same reality across the Arab world: rising Islamism pushes non-Muslims away.
Islamists frown on real-estate ownership by non-Muslims -- Christian, Jew or anything else. And though the secular Palestinian Authority still controls the West Bank, the clout of groups like Hamas is growing: Even in Bethlehem, where followers of history's most famous baby once thrived, Christians are ceding the land.
Yes, ever since the PA took control of the West Bank in the early '90s, its leaders have taken care to show the world an idealized picture of Muslim-Christian solidarity. But it's a facade -- a way to score anti-Israeli political points.
...Practically the only place in the region where the Christian population is growing is in Israel.[Source: New York Post]