In this final part, I’d like to discuss the Christian things that I experienced in Israel. I didn’t see very much, just the Old City, Bethlehem and the Mount of Olives.
The Christian population
Within Israel and the Palestinian Territories has declined significantly over the last 20 years or so. According to Reuters, the Christian “the Christian population has slumped to 7,500 from 20,000 in 1995. (http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-52021120101007). In 1920, the Christian population was 10% of the population of Palestine, but now it is 1%. The reasons cited are the Arab-Israeli conflict, the economic conditions caused by that and, to a lesser degree, Muslim fundamentalism, which has spread to the area. There has also been a decline in the Christian population in the entire Middle East, which was once 20% Christian down to 5% and Falling. (Reuters)
And while the economy on the West Bank has improved somewhat, it is still pretty depressed as the tourist trade has not picked up since the Intifadas. The guide I had in Bethlehem used to escort up to 5000 people a day in Bethlehem but that has slowed to a trickle except during the week of Christmas.
Jerusalem is of course, the birthplace of Christianity. Jesus’ ministry and the events leading up to his Crucifixion and Resurrection occurred there. So there is a lot to see. Some of the sites are the “traditional” site of various occurrences, but not the “proven” sites. In some cases, I have a hard time believing that certain significant events took place there.
During my tour of the Old City, we did stop a few sites which were Christian, mainly the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But we also walked on the Via Dolorosa, which is the some of the path the Jesus walked, carrying his cross to His Crucifixion. The first nine Stations of the Cross are along the entire Via Dolorosa. If I remember right, we stopped at Station 6, the encounter between Jesus and Veronica.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
This site was “discovered” by Helena, the mother of Constantine. She traveled to Jerusalem to build Churches over the holy sites.