BETHLEHEM AT CHRISTMAS

‘Peaceful Slumber’ by David Baldinger
The ‘ghosts of Christmas past’ are haunting the empty streets of Bethlehem this holiday season. What once was a vibrant community during this time of year is a deserted ghost town. Tourism is down in Israel/Palestine because of the political situation and travel advisories from western countries about visiting the Occupied Territories.
Shopowners are suffering due to the lack of tourist dollars that they are not getting this year.
There was hope that a peace process would begin… that the end of the crisis was near….. there still is that hope…. but not for this Christmas.
Here is a report from Ma’an on the situation…

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinians in the holy city of Bethlehem believed for a moment that the Olmert-Abbas meeting on Saturday evening would result in the lifting of the siege imposed on the city and the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from Bethlehem so the people could enjoy the Christmas and the New Year celebrations.

In the past, the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem used to receive over 100,000 tourists and pilgrims during the Christmas celebrations. The numbers have decreased dramatically as a result of the Israeli military occupation and the separation wall, in addition to the tension prevailing recently in the occupied Palestinians territories.

Palestinian Minister of Tourism Jouda Murqus believes that this year’s celebrations are not going to bring much cheer, especially in the shadow of the occupation and closures imposed on the West Bank.

Mayor of Bethlehem Victor Batarsah said that the numbers of pilgrims are not as they were in previous years. Residents of the city also say that celebrations this year are not like in previous years. Many say the atmosphere is “sad” and the current hard times are due to the occupation.

On Sunday morning, the celebrations started in the city of Bethlehem with a parade headed by the Latin Patriarch in Palestine and Jordan, Micheal Sabbah.

It is expected that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas will participate in the celebrations and attend the midnight Mass in the Church of the Nativity on Christmas Eve, the site where it is believed that Jesus was born. The mass will be presided over by His Eminence Micheal Sabbah.

A parade of scouts also marched through the streets of Bethlehem playing drums and traditional music. Hundreds of Palestinians and tourists gathered in the main square to welcome the patriarch who is expected to arrive before noon at the Church of the Nativity.

On this occasion, Ma’an News Agency would like to extend its best wishes to the Palestinian people in the hope that next year will be better than the current one, and that peace will prevail in the region.

4 Comments

  1. DG said,

    December 25, 2006 at 04:56

    Merry Christmas. Hope all your days are filled with happiness just like today 🙂

  2. Ann said,

    December 25, 2006 at 05:05

    Merry Christmas, Desert Peace; from Australia to Jerusalem, very best of wishes to you. I really found this article valuable and have linked to it. Wonder if the Bethlehem Citizenship initiative will at all go towards alleviating the dire situation, giving people internationally a stake, even if only symbolic to start off with, to help revive this ancient city?

  3. DesertPeace said,

    December 25, 2006 at 06:49

    Thank you Dubai Guy…. all the best to you.

  4. DesertPeace said,

    December 25, 2006 at 06:50

    Good to see you Ann…. thanks for linking the article to your blog.


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