Is Middle East peace a distant dream?
In a report from the Israel Project attention is directed to the plight of Palestinian Christians whose numbers have dwindled in recent years. The site of Jesus' birth has been hard hit. As the report notes, "Bethlehem in particular has seen a dramatic decline in its Christian population. Of Bethlehem’s 30,000 residents, less than 20 percent are Christian. In 1948 though, more than 85 percent of the town’s inhabitants were Christian." In the West Bank and Gaza the drop in numbers is even more dramatic. Once at 15% of the Palestinian population (1948), Christians now represent only 1½%. Muslim persecution is certainly one of the reasons for the decline as the report shows.
Though religious tolerance is usually relegated in discussions about the peace process, without mutual respect between Christians, Muslims and Jews, progress in the Middle East will remain a distant dream. The issue of Jerusalem's declining Christian population is a subject I treat in Identity, Ideology and the Future of Jerusalem.