If an “angel of the Lord” were to appear in the sky over Bethlehem today, there would be scarcely any shepherds keeping watch over their flocks to witness the scene.
Spending nights and days in the fields herding sheep has become an almost impossible task for the fast-diminishing community of shepherds in this biblical Palestinian town.
Jewish settlements, Israeli army checkpoints, closed military zones and the West Bank separation barrier have reduced the grazing area to such an extent that a growing number of Bethlehem shepherds have been forced to give up their traditional livelihoods. “I miss the freedom of the wilderness. Everything is different now. We can barely move,” says Adel Alsir, a 35-year-old Palestinian who herds his flock less than 100 metres from a biblical site known as the shepherds’ fields.