Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

I wish my Christian readers a very Merry Christmas.

At the same time I express the wish that you are not celebrating it in Bethlehem on the West Bank, as it definitely does not seem the best place to celebrate the birth of Christ, these days. I quote from a piece that Jalal Abukhater wrote in December 2011 on the Electronic Intifada: 
Bethlehem, the city of peace and the birthplace of Jesus Christ, has become a ghetto in the world we know today thanks to the Israeli occupation. With over 23 physical barriers surrounding the city, the apartheid wall cutting through its outskirts, and settlements strangling the city of Bethlehem from all directions, the idea of living there or even visiting this holy city has become an unpleasant and dreadful idea. (...) Israeli settlements are expanding in Bethlehem’s Northern areas and are rapidly engulfing whatever is in their way, including what was once the valley where it is said that angels have announced the birth of Jesus Christ to three local shepherds. In October 2011, Israeli government has approved plans to build 2600 units in Givat Hamatos illegal settlement north of Bethlehem (plans which passed the last planning stage, just this December 2012, AbuP.) which will result in isolating Bethlehem and fully dividing it from its historic twin, Jerusalem.(...)

While most Palestinian Christians from Gaza aren’t allowed entry to Bethlehem, Palestinian Christians from the West Bank have to take long routes across mountains and valleys like “Wadi Al-Nar” pass, and pass through many heinous Israeli road blocks to reach the city. Residents of Jerusalem have supposedly the easiest access through Bethlehem-Jerusalem road, but they too have to go through the humiliation at Israeli checkpoints. Tourists who arrive with Israeli tourism companies reach Bethlehem via buses which do not even go through or stop at Israeli checkpoints. (...) Today, it is easier for an American tourist to access Holy Sites in the Holy Land than for a Holy Land Christian or Muslim.

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