Thursday, December 21, 2006

Americans’ Perception of Bethlehem

by Steve Ray on December 21, 2006

To Americans, Bethlehem is unfamiliar

Dec. 20, 2006 ( – Americans are unfamiliar with the town where Jesus was born, according to a survey commissioned by the group Open Bethlehem.

Only 15% of the Americans surveyed realized that Bethlehem is a Palestinian town on the West Bank, with a mixed Muslim-Christian population.

Open Bethlehem commissioned a nationwide survey of Americans along with a companion survey of Bethlehem residents, to focus attention on a town where the Christian population is steadily dropping. The Zogby poll found that 81% of Americans want Bethlehem to retain its Christian presence.

The companion polls found markedly different attitudes between Americans and Palestinians regarding the current situation in Bethlehem. Most Christians in the town (78%) believe that the steady outward flow of Christians is the result of Israeli government policies, and especially to the “security wall” that rings the town; most Americans blame Islamic militants, with only a small fraction (7%) attributing the problem to Israel. A solid majority of Americans consider Bethlehem an unsafe place to visit, while 80% of the town’s residents say it is safe. Only 17% of the American respondents said that they were confident that Muslims and Christians can live together in peace; about 90% of the Christians in Bethlehem answered that question affirmatively.

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