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Despite the lack of opportunity, many of the region’s remaining residents are clearly happy to live in such a beautiful environment. Issam Abtehag and Sadaldeen Betrws, a couple from the village of Alkaimi, could not be happier. Both retired teachers, they live in a large house with all the modern amenities. A spacious balcony overlooks the village and its church and a nearby peach orchard. Yet, they understand their good fortune.

Climbing onto the roof, Mr. Abtehag points to a neighbor’s house, built of alternating rows of white and black stone, the traditional style of the region. But the once beautiful home languishes, unoccupied and in a state of disrepair. Visible signs of decay edge around the windows; weeds have taken over the walled garden. Mr. Abtehag says the owners left for North America long ago, abandoning the house to the elements.

Over mint tea and biscuits, the couple insists Christians are leaving Wadi al Nasarah mainly for better career opportunities.

“We have a nice house, clean air, safe water and good food. For Christians in Syria, life is generally very good. Indeed, we live better than most of the Muslims because we tend to be better educated and have good government jobs, or do well in business,” says Mr. Abtehag.

“In other countries of the regions, especially Iraq and Egypt, life has become intolerable for Christians and sometimes we worry what the future might bring,” he adds.

“Life here in Syria is very sweet!”

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Sean Sprague is a frequent contributor to these pages.

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Tags: Syria Christianity Village life Monastery Syriac Orthodox Church