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Introduction: Palestinian Christians in the West Bank

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Chapter Summary

The Christians of the West Bank are one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, and their presence in Palestine dates back to early Christianity. Bethlehem Christians in particular take great pride in their biblical heritage, and they claim a continuous history in the area that spans 2000 years. In reflection of this, local Christians refer to themselves as the 'living stones', the community of people that keep alive a Christian cultural heritage connected with the ancient stones: the historical churches and holy sites of the area. In the late Ottoman period, Palestinian Christians were a resourceful minority within a largely Muslim society, and throughout the twentieth century they played an instrumental role in shaping a Palestinian culture and national identity. Since the late Ottoman period, thousands of Muslim Palestinians have also emigrated, establishing large Palestinian communities throughout the Middle East and in other parts of the World.

Keywords: Christian communities; Islam; Israel; national identity; Palestinian Christians; West Bank



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