Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2012


Bethlehem is regarded as the traditional birthplace of Jesus and the city of David. The town of approximately 25,000 people houses one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and attracts Christian pilgrims from near and far, especially during the Christmas season. Despite its importance as a Christian holy site, Bethlehem’s Christian population has steadily declined in the last hundred years. Today, more Bethlehem Christians live abroad than in the town itself. Just 50 years ago, Christians made up 70% of Bethlehem’s population. Today this number has dwindled to 18%. These Palestinian Christians consider themselves direct descendants of Jesus’ first followers. Yet why has their presence so dramatically declined in the area where Christianity began? The fact that the Christian population is quickly diminishing has repercussions on the region as a whole.