Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."
Phillips Brooks' classic Christmas tune was inspired by a trip he took to Bethelehem in 1865. However, if Brooks saw Bethlehem in 2006, it's doubtful he'd say the town is lying peacefully still.
Consider what Jerusalem resident Avi Hein observes about how Bethlehem has changed:
"In 1948, Christians made up eighty percent of the population in Bethlehem. Muslims now make up eighty-five percent of the population. The Palestinian Authority has been co-opted by radical Islamic fundamentalism. Today, Bethlehem is ruled by Hamas.
"With the radical Islamic Hamas' ascent to power, their desire for a fundamentalist Muslim state ruled by Islamic law seems closer than ever to being realized. Christians under the PA are reduced to dhimmis, second class citizens. Muslim Palestinians threaten their Christian neighbors with violence on a daily basis because, as one Christian Palestinian noted, the Christians 'want to live in peace.'
"Palestinian Christians don't live in peace. They live in fear, unable to practice their own religion. The Christians are pushed out of their homes due to the continual segregation and establishment of Muslim-only housing projects. Muslims boycott their Christian neighbors' shops and businesses.
"Christians live in fear for their life. Under the Palestinian Authority, Christians have been forced to observe the strict restrictions of Ramadan and must observe Islamic sharia law.
Read the rest of Hein's piece here.