Decommissioning Bethlehem

After hearing about this on the news, I looked it up, and here it is, straight from the source, Catholic World News:

Vatican, Dec. 17, 2007 ( – In a break from tradition, the life-sized crèche in St. Peter’s Square will show Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their home at Nazareth rather than in a stable in Bethlehem, the Vatican has announced.

Instead of the familiar scene of the Baby Jesus laid in a manger, the Vatican’s Nativity scene this year will show the infant Jesus in a home that also includes his father’s workshop. No reason has been given for the change.

But I have a guess…

It was common for Christian pilgrims and tourists to visit Bethlehem, expecially at Christmas time. From 1967 when Israel returned to Bethlehem until 1995 when they handed the city over to the Arabs, Christian residents and visitors felt comfortable visiting the Church of the Nativity and gathering in Manger Square. But ever since the local Arabs launched their terror campaign in the year 2000, Bethlehem has not been a very safe place for Christians. As a matter of fact, by November 2006, the Christian population of Bethlehem had dwindled from the 80% it had been before the terror war to only 15% of the population. It has decreased since then. In addition, visiting Bethlehem has not been safe. Fewer and fewer Christian tourists feel comfortable entering Bethlehem.

So it doesn’t surprise me that Nazareth has been chosen by the Vatican for its Christmas display this year. Nazareth, a city with a large Christian and Moslem Arab population, lies within the “green line” and it is kept safe by Israeli police. People are able to move freely and they can feel safe there.

I wonder if anyone else understands….

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