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A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z   This menu features recently updated backgrounders on people, places and subjects. To view all backgrounders, click More...
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last updated March 2, 2011 1:42 PM (EST+7)
Bethlehem
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Bethlehem, Christians, Christianity, Palestinian Christians, Arab Christians, tourism, demography, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Wall
With a rich political and religious history, the most obvious aspect being the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem is perched at the very end of the desert 10 kilometers north of Jerusalem. Home to the Church of the Nativity, a main attraction for Christian pilgrims from all over the world, the city has a sizable Christian community, although the majority of the population today is Muslim.

EnlargeA Palestinian boy stands among women as they try to pass a checkpoint to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in Bethlehem, Aug. 20, 2010.(AP/Bernat Armangue)
Multimedia
AP: Protest over shrines enters day three
Feb. 25, 2010 9:00 AM (EST+7)
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Palestinian bishop elected to lead Lutheran Church, Deutsche Welle, July 25, 2010
Exclusive Intifada Interview with Archbishop Theodosios (Atallah) Hanna, Elias F. Harb, Intifada Palestine website, July 23, 2010
Floorplan of Haram Ibrahimi mosque

STAGNANT ECONOMY

In spite of a high literacy rate of 84 percent, the city has experience economic stagnation due to a steep decline in tourism, its major industry. Extended curfews during the second intifada, restricted movement of goods and limited issuance of permits have limited residents employment opportunities. The growing presence of Israeli settlements coupled with the Wall are isolating Bethlehem from the rest of the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. (Under the British Mandate, Bethlehem and Jerusalem were considered one region.)

Bethlehem's isolation is leading to the gradual disappearance of the Christian middle class that form its economic backbone. In 1947, about 75 percent of the population was Christian. Today, that number is down to about 20 percent. Between the years 2000 and 2004, it is estimated that approximately 3,000 Christian residents left the city.

DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE

The changing demographics of the city are closely connected to a decline in tourism. For instance, fewer visitors has led to the shutting down of cottage industries that produce souvenirs and handicrafts, and a loss of jobs for wage workers in the hospitality industry.

There seems to have been a slow revival in tourism over the past couple of years due to relative stability since 2006. The municipality reports that over 1.2 million visitors were in Bethlehem in 2008. However, it should be noted that a majority of these tourists visit during the Christmas season, with the remainder of the year experiencing economic lull in the absence of any other major industries.

News on Bethlehem
UNESCO grants funding, heritage status to BethlehemJune 30, 2012 5:20 PM (EST+7)
WITNESS: Gaza's Christians diplomatic despite IslamicizationApril 21, 2012 11:40 PM (EST+7)
Palestinian Christians begin Easter celebrationsApril 7, 2012 10:05 AM (EST+7)


Sources
Bethlehem city official website
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics official website
Open Bethlehem website



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