Christmas Time In Bethlehem
The Western World is shopping for Christmas. Christmas for Western societies is perhaps the most important economic event. During this time of mass consumption, when goods of all kinds are purchased, in Bethlehem; the birthplace of Jesus Christ, it is a somber, desperate time, for the inhabitants.
If you believe in Christmas, Bethlehem may be no place for you. The Little Town, since antiquity an emotional world capital of Christianity, is steadily becoming a city without Christians.
The exodus of Bethlehem's Christian Palestinians, spurred by Israel's military occupation and settlement policies, the violence and upheaval of the intifada, as well as beckoning opportunities in the Americas and elsewhere, has left a town that was 80 percent Christian in 1948, to one that is now 85 percent Muslim.
*Christmas 2006:Is Jesus still a Palestinian?
The Hamas government, often labeled by the international community as Islamic militants, has promised to donate US$50,000 to prepare Bethlehem for the traditional Christmas holidays. The offering will be twice as much as given in previous years.
Local businesses are feeling the harsh reality of the ever-declining tourist economy. Now people here have no salaries. It’s like a well that finished drawing water ...
*Islamic Hamas Donates Cash for Bethlehem’s Christmas
*Bethlehem mayor calls on world Christians to visit his town this Christmas
Bethlehem XMAS Video
*Bethlehem:Christmas preparations Video
The Bethlehem Wall
Israel began to wall in the Bethlehem ghetto in 2002, constructing sections of electrified fence around the city of Beit Jala and on lands belonging to Bethlehem and Beit Sahour sprawling below the massive illegal Israeli settlement of Har Homa.
In 2003, more of the Wall was hastily erected further around Beit Jala, Bethlehem and Beit Sahour.
It wasn't until 2004 that Israeli occupying forces brought in the massive cement panels that have come to characterize Israel's Apartheid project and the Palestinian ghettos it is creating.
In June of 2004 Israel built sections of cement wall around the northern entrance to Bethlehem, the historic road linking the city to Jerusalem, and up against the neighboring Aida Refugee Camp. They left open the section between the Bethlehem checkpoint and the Israeli fortress at the holy site of Rachel's Tomb.
Where Is Everyone
Secrets live in the space between our footsteps.
The words of my grandfather echo in my dream,
as the years keep his beads and town.
I see Bethlehem, all in dust, empty
a torn piece of newspaper lost in its narrow streets.
Where is everyone? Graffiti and stones answer.
Where is the real Bethlehem - the one my grandfather came from?
Handkerchiefs dry the pain from my hands.
Olive trees and tears continue to remember.
I walk until I reach an old Arab man dressed in a white robe.
Aren't you the man I saw in my grandfather's stories?
He looks at me and leaves. I follow-ask him why he is going? He continues.
I stop, turn around, realize, he has left me secrets between his footsteps.
Israel's encroachments into the Bethlehem District alone, which include the townships of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, have taken a devastating toll in terms of the lands lost to Israeli confiscation policies. The decades-long occupation has expropriated 46 percent of Beit Jala, 27 percent of Beit Sahour and approximately 9 percent of Bethlehem.
These lands include those taken from Palestinian Christians for Jewish-only settlements like Gilo, Har-Gilo, Har Homa, and Givat Hamatos; or for future illegal constructions, such as Giv'at Ya'el in Beit Jala, and Har Homa B and C in Beit Sahour.
There is, in fact, an imminent threat to the existence of Palestinian Christian communities, and it does not stem from Israel's annexation policies alone. It includes restrictions on movement and the denial of the rights to self-determination, worship (i.e. access to Jerusalem's holy sites), education, proper health services and an adequate standard of living.
And for Gaza's Christians, who account for 2,200 of the Strip's 1.4 million residents, the situation is deteriorating at an exponential rate, as Israeli bombardments and closures deny them water, food and electricity.
The above restrictions and violations must also be viewed through the larger lens of Israel's systematic destruction of Palestinian civil society, a process that is blind to religious identity and grounded in an ethnically-based discrimination against Arabs that is increasingly used to justify further Isreali land grabs.
In a report issued earlier this year, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) found that between 1999 and 2004, Israel's occupation and oppressive measures led to unprecedented levels of poverty in the West Bank, with 63 percent of Palestinians living below the poverty level of $2.3 per person per day, 16 percent of whom live in extreme poverty conditions ($1.6 per person per day).
UNCTAD avers that these figures "have been hard to reverse under the Israeli policy of internal and external closures and the complex system of mobility restrictions" and that this "system has effectively turned the West Bank into isolated islands, involving at the height of the closure regime up to 600 physical barriers in the form of permanent checkpoints, metal gates, earth mounds and walls, roadblocks and trenches."
Additionally, Israel's continued construction of its separation wall, whose illegal ruling by the International Court of Justice approaches its second anniversary, along with various other separation barriers on either side of the wall, have created over two dozen communities stranded between the West Bank and Israel's 1948 borders. Several of these enclave populations have no access to public health care whatsoever.
Jew does not necessarily mean victim, and Christian is not somehow divorced from Arab.
Do not forget Gaza where war by the Palestinians, is equated with freedom.
*Bethlehem To Be Crushed Without Negotiation
*Israel's Apartheid Wall
*Stop the Wall
*Two States One Future
*Jewish Voice For Peace