Bethlehem – what it means to me

With less than 3 weeks to go to Christmas, what does the annual countdown mean for Bethlehem? Overseas, the talk is about the remaining shopping days or holidays. In our part of the world, Bethlehem has sadly slid into the drain of the Middle East conflict.

Speak to Israelis and they will quote you how thousands of Christian residents have been forced to convert to Islam or lost property rights since 1993 and the Oslo Accords. Proponents of the Palestinian cause cite harassment by Jewish settlers or blockade of commercial goods.

I have found that the truth often rarely sticks to political spin. There are definitive analyses as to how the security fence has benefited Christians in the West Bank. When I see Palestinian leaders attending Midnight Mass in Bethlehem, I wonder why they need to sacrifice themselves to the cameras, exploiting such a holy occasion.

On a very personal level, I look at Bethlehem very differently. I recall how I used to shop there, like many residents from southern Jerusalem. It was nearer and cheaper than the obvious alternatives.

I remember taking tourists round the Via Dolarosa in Jerusalem’s Old City and then driving 15 minutes into Manger Square. And we could walk around the Church, without interference from security forces of one kind or another. Bethlehem signified..well, an open way of life, peoples of all religions coming together.

Just how much has Bethlehem changed over the past 15 years? Today, Bethelehem is a Muslim city, controlled by the Palestinian Authority. My kids cannot fathom my simple anecdotal stories.

So consider this: The next time you read about Bethlehem, imagine how differently the article would have read if the ruling politicians would stop interfering and the extremists would desist from exploiting frail religious emotions.

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One Comment on “Bethlehem – what it means to me”

  1. Michael Horesh Says:

    To help Christians in Israel, pls go to http://www.ifcj.org/site/R?i=H207ERPYxBz5ssRfyDHTMg..


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