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Christopher Blackwell
‘Little Town of Bethlehem’
Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:46am

Evangelicals side with Israel. That’s hurting Palestinian Christians.
When Americans sing carols about the ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ this Christmas, they should keep in mind who lives there.
By Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Bethlehem is the most heavily Christian city in Palestine. Its Arab Christian mayor, Vera Baboun, describes her hometown the “capital of Christmas” and says that between Bethlehem proper and the surrounding Bethlehem governate, there are upward of 38,000 Christian residents. Christmas celebrations there form an integral part of city life. “Bethlehem is the city that gave the message of peace to the whole world,” Baboun told me in a November interview at a conference hosted by the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. “But today, Bethlehem does not live the peace that it gave to the whole world.”

The existence of Palestinian Christians, and the difficulties they face under Israeli occupation in their homeland, is a blind spot for American Christians. Evangelicals in particular are often strong supporters of Israel and suspicious of Muslims but don’t seem to realize that those aren’t the only groups at play in the region.

“I and many other Americans of Palestinian Christian ancestry will often get asked: When did you convert? ‘2,000 years ago, when did you convert?’ is a standard response,” said Gregory Khalil, president and co-founder of the U.S.-based Telos Group, a self-styled pro-Israel and pro-Palestine organization that advocates peace in the region.

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