Burglary in Bethlehem: Jesus’ birthplace sees dramatic rise in break-ins before Christmas

The West Bank city has been hit with 55 break-ins in recent weeks – a 43% rise on 2013 figures

John Hall
Thursday 24 December 2015 16:26
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The West Bank city (pictured) has been hit with 55 break-ins in the weeks leading up to Christmas
The West Bank city (pictured) has been hit with 55 break-ins in the weeks leading up to Christmas

While the biggest problem facing Bethlehem residents 2015 years ago was a shortage of overnight accommodation, locals today are facing an altogether more worrying issue.

For while many us may be looking forward to a stranger climbing down our chimney this evening, the last thing Bethlehem residents want is an unexpected visitor, having experienced a dramatic spike in burglaries over the past two months.

The West Bank city has been hit with 55 break-ins in recent weeks – a 43% rise on 2013 figures when there were just 230 burglaries all year, according to the Economist.

In one incident thieves made off with money and items valued at more than £40,000, suggesting an organised element to some of the crimes.

Visitors to Bethlehem have dwindled over the past 12 months as tensions between Israel and Palestine escalate

The crime wave is largely being blamed on a faltering economy in the Palestinian territories, where the GDP has shrunk three years in a row a quarter of residents are unemployed, according to the International Monetary Fund.

For while Bethlehem has always experienced a booming tourist trade, visitor numbers have dwindled over the past 12 months as tensions between Israel and Palestine escalate and conflicts elsewhere in the region spill over into other Middle Eastern nations.

An incredible 90 per cent of Bethlehem’s hotel rooms are sitting vacant this Christmas, for example –a figure unheard of 10 years ago.

But while Bethlehem residents are rightly concerned about this latest spikes in burglaries, a degree of perspective is probably needed as even taking the recent thefts into account, there are still on average twice as many burglaries in London as there are the West Bank.

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