Israel is the only area in The Middle East where there is religious freedom and places of worship for all, including Mormons, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Messianic (Christian) Jews, Druze and many others.
As you drive north through Israel you see many mosques on hilltops. There are also lots of Arab Christians in Israel, all with freedom of worship. Many fled from Lebanon when Islamic terrorists waged war on them. Some are Orthodox, some Catholic and others are Evangelical.
However, freedom stops at the borders of Islamic controlled areas of The Middle East and that includes our Lord’s likely birthplace, in Bethlehem.
The fast dwindling number of Christians still living in the birthplace of the Lord are in trouble and facing ever more hostility.
Writing in The Jewish Press, Baruch Yadid, said that the Christian Greek Orthodox community in Bethlehem has been in a tumult in recent days following the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) intention to expropriate the lands of the Church of Nativity which belong to the Church.
In fact, according to Israeli media reports,The Palestinian Authority (PA) is slowly chipping away at Bethlehem’s dwindling Christian population by gradually claiming Christian property as its own.
Tazpit Press (TPS) reported that 11 institutions associated with the Greek Orthodox Church have signed a statement protesting at the PA’s attempts to control the Plaza in front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the place where many believe Jesus was born.
Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem said in the letter that the PA has been trying over the last few years to expropriate Christian lands in Bethlehem and turn them over the government.
The outcry from the Christian community reportedly became so widespread online that the Bethlehem City Council had to release a statement saying it does not intend to take Christian land.
However, a source told TPS that the PA has repeatedly tried to take over Christian land in Bethlehem in retaliation for the Orthodox Church selling land to Jews in Jerusalem.
A Bethlehem official told the news agency that the number of Christians in the city where Christ was born is growing smaller and believers only make up 22 percent of the population where they were once the majority.
Christmas is a major tourism event for Bethlehem but TPS reports that the PA is slowly removing Christ from the heart of the celebration.
Christmas ceremonies are gradually turning from a religious Christian event to a national event sponsored by the PA, even though in recent years it has acted to deprive Christians of their properties.