Religion: Hopes And Fears of All the Years

Bethlehem's gloomy Christmas signals concerns for the future

Thanks to its renown as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, Bethlehem has long since ceased to be the "little town" described in the popular carol. It is instead a city whose 35,000 residents have traditionally been joined by so many pilgrims and tourists that there is often no room in the inns. But the boom and bustle came to a rather sudden halt in December 1987, when the intifadeh arose among the Arabs in Israel's occupied territories. Last Christmas only 5,000 visitors -- half the normal turnout -- attended Bethlehem's elaborate holiday observance. In the year since then, an estimated 300...

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