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Bethlehem between Tradition and Modernity

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores family structures and gender relation in a changing Bethlehem community. For the most part, Bethlehem Christians take pride in their Arab cultural heritage and traditional way of life. This heritage includes, among other things, a patriarchal family structure, conceptions of collective family honor, and a focus on hospitality and generosity as central virtues. In particular, the patriarchal family structure, in which family ties carry great weight, and where authority is centered in the hands of senior males, enjoys widespread support within the community. At the same time, many young people long for greater social freedom, and a greater level of personal autonomy, especially concerning marriage arrangements and choice of marriage partners. The chapter also explores the issue of marriage arrangements as a field of contention in a community torn between the weight of local traditions and powerful forces for change.

Keywords: Arab cultural heritage; Bethlehem community; Christian; generosity; Muslim; tradition



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