by Hisham Jarallah
A few weeks ago, veteran CBS News correspondent Bob Simon reported on the plight of Christians of the Holy Land who have been leaving the region for many years.
In large part, Simon blamed the Christian exodus on Israel.
But had Simon visited the Christian village of Taybeh in the West Bank, he would have heard "the other side to the story."
This is a village whose population is 100% Christian. It is surrounded by a number of Muslim villages, some of which are extremely hostile.
The number of Christians living in Taybeh is estimated at less than 2,000. Residents say that another 15,000 Taybeh villagers live in the US, Canada and Europe, as well as South America.
Over the past few years, the Christian residents of Taybeh have been living in constant fear of being attacked by their Muslim neighbors.
Such attacks, residents say, are not uncommon. They are more worried about intimidation and violence by Muslims than by Israel's security barrier or a checkpoint. And the reason why many of them are leaving is because they no longer feel safe in a village that is surrounded by thousands of hostile Muslims who relate to Christians as infidels and traitors.
Just last week, scores of Muslim men from surrounding villages, some of the men armed with pistols and clubs, attacked Taybeh.
Fortunately, no one was harmed and no damage was caused to property.
Palestinian Authority policemen who rushed to the village had to shoot into the air to drive back the Muslim attackers and prevent a slaughter.
The attack, residents said, came after a Muslim man tried to force his way into a graduation ceremony at a girls' school in Taybeh.
The man, who had not been invited to the ceremony, complained that Christians had assaulted him. Later that day, he and dozens of other Muslims stormed the village with the purpose of seeking revenge for the "humiliation."
Were it not for the quick intervention of the Palestinian security forces, the attackers would have set fire to a number of houses and vehicles and probably killed or wounded some Christians.
Palestinian government and police officials later demanded that the Christians dispatch a delegation to the nearby Muslim villages to apologize for "insulting" the Muslim man. To avoid further escalation, the heads of Taybeh complied.
Also at the request of the Palestinian government, residents of the village were requested not to talk to the media about the incident.
Even some of the leaders of the Christian community in the West Bank urged the Taybeh residents not to make a big fuss about the incident.
This was not the first time that Taybeh had come under attack. In September 2005, hundreds of Muslim men went on rampage in the village, torching homes and cars, and destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary, after learning that a Muslim woman had been romantically involved with a Christian businessman from the village.
The 30-year-old woman had been killed by her family.
Western journalists based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have refused to report about the most recent attack on Taybeh, most probably because the story does not have an "anti-Israel angle."
Like Bob Simon, most Western journalists prefer to see only one side of the story. All they want is to find stories that shed a negative light on Israel.
Simon, by the way, has probably never heard of Taybeh.
The next time anyone wants to learn about the true problems facing the Christians of the Holy Land, he or she should head to Taybeh and conduct off the record and private interviews with the villagers.
Hisham Jarallah is a journalist based in the West Bank.
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