"We have to respect the atmosphere we are living in. We have to go with the trend,"
Not a Merry Christmas for Palestinian Christians residing in Gaza.
But many Christians privately said they would use their travel permits to leave Gaza for good, even if that means remaining in the West Bank as illegal residents. Israeli security officials said they were permitting 400 Gaza Christians to travel through Israel to Bethlehem for Christmas.
.... "We fear what is to come," said the husband. Fouad, a distant relative of Ayyad, said he also is packing up. He said his father, a guard at a local church, was stopped recently by unknown bearded men who put a gun to his head before he was rescued by passers-by.
"We don't know why it happened," the 20-year-old police officer said. "We can't be sure how they (Muslims) think anymore."
Those who are staying are trying to limit the risks. Nazek Surri, a Roman Catholic, walked out from Sunday's service with a Muslim-style scarf covering her head.
"We have to respect the atmosphere we are living in. We have to go with the trend," she said.
Who is to blame for Christian distress in the lands of peace loving Palestinians?
Rev. Manuel Musallem, head of Gaza's Roman Catholic church,.... blamed Israeli sanctions and excessive violence in Gaza for the flight.
Well, of course. Just as Israel is to blame for this:
Christian leaders and residents told me they face an atmosphere of regular hostility. They said Palestinian armed groups stir tension by holding militant demonstrations and marches in the streets. They spoke of instances in which Christian shopkeepers' stores were ransacked and Christian homes attacked. ...
Some Christian leaders said one of the most significant problems facing Christians in Bethlehem is the rampant confiscation of land by Muslim gangs.
"There are many cases where Christians have their land stolen by the (Muslim) mafia," said Samir Qumsiyeh, a Bethlehem Christian leader and owner of the Beit Sahour-based private al-Mahd (Nativity) TV station.
"It is a regular phenomenon in Bethlehem. They go to a poor Christian person with a forged power of attorney document, then they say we have papers proving you're living on our land. If you confront them, many times the Christian is beaten. You can't do anything about it. The Christian loses and he runs away," Qumsiyeh told WND, speaking from his hilltop television station during a recent interview.
Qumsiyeh himself said he was targeted by Islamic gangs. He said his home was firebombed after he returned from a trip abroad during which he gave public speeches outlining the plight of Bethlehem's Christian population. ...
A February Jerusalem Post article cited the case of Faud and Georgette Lama, Christian residents of Bethlehem who said their land was stolen by local Muslims and when they tried to do something about it, Faud was beaten by gunmen....
“We are harassed but you wouldn’t know the truth. No one says anything publicly about the Muslims. This is why Christians are running away.”
What? Muslim persecution is driving the Christians out of Bethlehem? One would never know that from the Christmas coverage/annual Israel bash-fest by my "colleagues" in the media.