UN report on Bethlehem

 Samuel Martin, Communications Officer with Caritas Jerusalem sends the following letter. Dear Friends, Greetings from Jerusalem. We wish to refer all interested parties to an important report published this week (December 20, 2004) produced by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) concerning the city of Bethlehem. The report is titled: 'Costs of Conflict: The Changing Face of Bethlehem, December 2004.' This 20 page report with extensive photos and local testimonies paints a picture of life in Bethlehem as nightmarish and hopeless. Some of the particularly horrifying statistics concerning Bethlehem mentioned in the report are as follows: 1. Bethlehem is surrounded by approximately 78 physical obstacles. 2. The former thriving business district in Northern Bethlehem near Rachel's Tomb saw 72 of the 80 businesses located there close from June 2002 to October 2004. 3. The number of available hotel rooms occupied in Bethlehem from January to September 2004 averaged 2.4%. 4. In the year 2000, the average number of tourist buses entering Bethlehem was 2,742 per month. In 2004, the monthly average was 138. 5. 9.3% of the Christian population (2,071 individuals in 357 families) of Bethlehem has emigrated out of the city since September 2000 To conclude, the report states: "Once a bustling cultural and spiritual centre hosting tourists and pilgrims from around the world, Bethlehem has become an isolated town, with boarded up shops and abandoned development projects." (page 20) At this Christmas time, we urge all people to especially pray for all of the residents of Bethlehem. We also urge those who care about Bethlehem to take concrete actions to support those living in this troubled city. Those who are interested in knowing more of how they can be a part of the solution to the problems facing Bethlehem are urged to be in touch with us at Caritas Jerusalem. Please paste the following link in your browser to obtain the full report. (www.reliefweb.int/library/documents/2004/ocha-opt-20dec.pdf)

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