Sunday, December 24, 2006

[bethlehem] first hamas christmas in ruins

This is the first Christmas that Hamas has hosted in Bethlehem and things are not looking good in the town where Jesus was born 2,000 years ago. "This is the saddest Christmas. As you see, Manger Square is empty," said Mayor Victor Batarseh, a Roman Catholic mayor who was elected last year with support from Hamas.

In the days leading up to Christmas, only a trickle of tourists visited the holy sites, half the shops were closed, and decorations were sparse. The foreign aid that once poured into Bethlehem has dried up, a victim of the international aid boycott imposed on the Palestinian Authority in March when the Hamas-led government took control of Gaza and the West Bank.

"I am pleased that Hamas is helping to make Christmas," [a Hamas official] said. "It is our duty to help with the decorations and congratulate our Christian brothers on their holiday. Muslims consider Jesus as one of the prophets, and we also celebrate his birth, but not as a major holiday."

Yet by Saturday, the promised money from the government had still not arrived. A municipal official said that even if it came, it would likely not be spent on Christmas lights. "We will pay the salaries -- that's more important," he said, on condition of anonymity.

After six years of the intifada and Israeli military incursions, the tourists have disappeared, and Bethlehem's economy is in ruins. The town of 30,000 is now almost encircled by Israel's separation barrier, which has strangled Bethlehem's livelihood, cutting off the town from Jerusalem and deterring all but the most determined visitors. Israel says it built the barrier to deter cross-border attacks, but Batarseh said it has transformed Bethlehem into "a big prison whose keys are in the hands of the occupier."

Only about 100,000 tourists have visited Bethlehem in 2006, compared to nearly 2 million annually before the intifada. Samir Qumsiyeh, owner of a local Christian TV station, has documented more than 90 incidents of anti-Christian violence carried out in the Bethlehem area in recent years and 140 cases in which Christian land has been taken over by what he describes as "Islamic mafia gangs."

Among the few pilgrims in town just before Christmas was Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who led a delegation of British church leaders to Bethlehem as a sign of solidarity. The clerics prayed in the Church of the Nativity along with Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Syrian bishops.


Jeremy Jacobs said...

Of course there's always two sides to the story...this from an American Blog called "This site is full of crap"

The Independent ponders the question "What would the Virgin Mary encounter if she and Joseph headed towards Bethlehem today?"

Well, besides the fact that a Jewish couple looking to deliver a baby wouldn't be caught dead in the Arab areas of the West Bank...

No, I take that back. They'd probably be caught. And, ultimately, dead.

Technically, they weren't Christians, so they wouldn't suffer the constant harassment, racketeering, land-thefts, and brutal repression that Christians suffer in that town in the ethnic cleansing campaign of the Islamic authorities there.

Unless they were chosen as token Christians to parade in front of the cameras when reporters needed a couple to interview about "brutal Israeli security measures" interfering with their Christian religious practices. The Muslims keep a nice list of those handy - and the press union is under their control as well.

Those that get out of line, well, they find themselves suffering along with everybody else that doesn't play ball.

Or they find themselves dead.

But let's assume properly that Joseph and Mary in the modern day are Jewish.

Fine. Mary would suffer harassment from gangs of young male Arab Muslims. If she wasn't covered up properly, she'd be beaten, and even if she was, she'd be a target for rape and murder if she was revealed to be Jewish.

Joseph, on the other hand, would probably not be raped and murdered, since open demonstrations of homosexuality on the part of any Muslim would get that Muslim killed along with their victim. But, still, he would be considered a fair target for the so-called security forces there, who are often just highwaymen in uniforms looking to collect protection money instead of protecting and serving the "law." After all, aren't all Israelis considered enemy soldiers because of mandatory military service?

Now, if they were far-left anti-Zionist self-loathing Jews like Adam Shapiro, well, they'd be in Bethlehem protesting the Separation Barrier. Probably facing down soldiers and border police in protests every day, throwing rocks and providing a front line from which Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, and Fateh snipers could attack.

Maybe Mary, despite her gravid condition, would attempt to attack a riot policeman, end up miscarrying the Baby Jesus.

Nice going, Joseph, letting the women pregnant with your baby and the so-called Messiah miscarry and kill the Baby Jesus.

Not that the Islamic authorities would care. Remember - Jesus was just a prophet to them, extremely minor compared to Mohammed, and not a divine being or manifestation of God. He's just as valuable to them as a fetal martyr as he would be a prophet from their point of view.

So there you have it, Independent. That's what Mary and Joseph would be dealing with if they were heading to Bethlehem.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

What an interesting post and an equally thought-provoking comment, Jeremy. It's all very sad. I was just wondering how many people will be singing, "Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem" today.

james higham said...

Yes, an excellent response from the Jewish point of view, which, as Stephen Pollard et all know, I'm quite sympathetic towards.

zajel said...

As a Christian who lives in Bethlehem, I can assure you that Jeremy's comment is so out of line that it would be beyond offensive to myself and dozens of Muslim friends, who have never treated me any different for my religion, but:

The only reason I'm not offended is because it's absurd and laughable. Anyone who comes to Bethlehem sees how people here treat Christians and Muslims alike.

I love the random references to Christians being murdered for their religion:

"Or they find themselves dead."

Check the books; there's no case on file for decades back of such a thing, nor have I ever heard of it.

"Mary not being covered enough"

No one covers up in Bethlehem! Not that we mind when someone does, after all that's your religion, but give me a break, Jeremy! Women in Bethlehem would give your grandparents in America or Israel a heart attack if they saw what girls here wear.

Oh and the whole killing Jews thing...check the stats on 26 December and see how many of the hundreds who come to Bethlehem to pay their respects, and overall to have a good time with their Palestinian friends, are dead the next day. I'll give you a hint; it's the same as every year: Zero.

However, what might get you killed is that ludicrous comment about Muslims not caring about Jesus dying. Cause, well, that could actually get their blood boiling a bit as they consider him one of the three most significant prophets of Islam. So I'd avoid that.

And us Christians are the ones who consider Jesus a martyr (see: the Bible), not Muslims, who believe he died of natural causes. Amazing!

But everything else written in that seemingly sarcastic column would cause Bethlehem Muslims and Christians alike to laugh out loud in mockery of its unfounded and outrageous claims.

But alas, Merry Christmas, Eid Mubarak and Happy Hannakah from the little town of Hamas and Islamofascist Bethlehem.