National Geographic : 2009 Jun
new obstacles and constantly change the rules, a er a while the rats go crazy and start eating each other. It s like that." For anyone living in Israel or the Palestinian territories, stress is the norm. But the 196,500 Palestinian and Israeli Arab Christians, who dropped from 13 percent of the population in 1894 to less than 2 percent today, occupy a uniquely oxygen-starved space between trau- matized Israeli Jews and traumatized Palestinian Muslims, whose rising militancy is tied to re- gional Islamist movements that sometimes target Arab Christians. In the past decade, "the situa- tion for Arab Christians has gone rapidly down- hill," says Razek Siriani, a frank and lively man in his 40s who works for the Middle East Council of Churches in Aleppo, Syria. "We re completely outnumbered and surrounded by angry voices," he says. Western Christians have made matters worse, he argues, echoing a sentiment expressed is is the rst Easter, ever, that Mark has been allowed to spend with the family in Jeru- salem. He is from Bethlehem, in the West Bank, so his identity papers are from the Palestinian Authority; he needs a permit from Israel to visit. Lisa, whose family lives in the Old City, holds an Israeli ID. So although they ve been married for ve years and rent this apartment in the Je- rusalem suburbs, under Israeli law they can t reside under the same roof. Mark lives with his parents in Bethlehem, which is six miles away but might as well be a hundred, lying on the far side of an Israeli checkpoint and the 24-foot- high concrete barrier known as the Wall. Mark finds it depressing that "80 percent of the Christian guys I grew up with have le for another country to nd work." Yet he un- derstands why. A trained social worker with a degree in sociology, Mark has been looking for a job, any job, for almost two years. "You re surrounded by this giant wall, and there are no jobs," he says. "It s like a science experiment. If you keep rats in an enclosed space and make it smaller and smaller every day and introduce In high spirits, churchgoers rock the Christian Quarter at Easter. Don Belt is the magazine s senior editor for foreign a airs. He and photographer Ed Kashi reported on India s superhighways in the October 2008 issue.