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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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When is a Palestinian Not a Palestinian?

Historically, the Christian residents of Bethlehem did not identify themselves as Arabs.
Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Holy Land, in Bethlehem,

Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Holy Land, in Bethlehem,
Photo Credit: Issam Rimawi/FLASH90

I usually write about the Jewish history of Israel.  This time around, a short piece on the flexibility of national identity among our neighbors.  Less than a century ago, the Christian residents of Bethlehem did not identify themselves as Arabs, and even less so as the indigenous peoples.  In welcoming the conquering Anglos, they eagerly associated themselves with the conquering imperial power.

From “The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine” by Charles Guy Powles (1922), quoted in “The Changing Land Between the Jordan and the Sea” by Benjamin Zeev Kedar:

Bethlehem is a Christian city…  The people declare that they are not Arabs, but that they are descendants of the Crusaders.  They certainly are not generally so dark and swarthy as the Arabs.  All the women have colour in their cheeks and many have blue eyes, and their dress is interesting and picturesque.  Apart from its attractive coloring – a sky-blue robe with red girdle and embroidered jacket – they wear a head-dress extraordinarily like that of the ladies of the Crusaders of old…
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