Are Bethlehem’s Christians losing grip on their city?

shutterstock_101237881-635x357With a low birth rate and high emigration, members of a shrinking minority in Christianity’s birthplace keep a wary eye on their neighbors

By Debra Kamin

A girl lights candles in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity (photo credit: Shutterstock)

Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun is concerned.

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It’s nearly Christmas, but the leader of this famed little town – the first female to ever hold the role – says that tourists are not flocking to the events in the packed calendar she and her team have prepared for the month of December. In a bid to jumpstart the city’s most lucrative season, she launched Christmas early this year, lighting the massive tree at the center of Manger Square on December 1 and unveiling a packed four weeks of music, art and cultural happenings. 

 

But despite Bethlehem’s critical role in the story of Christmas and the life of Jesus, its shrinking Christian community this year is experiencing a rather lackluster holiday.

 

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