Nu, what did you expect? Of course, some people celebrate, some people riot and some people just traditionally dish out the same old, same old.
And here it comes, another Christmas in Bethlehem according to one Phoebe Greenwood*, direct from the location. But if you think it's about Christmas or even about Bethlehem, you will be mistaken. Of course not, not from the Guardian...
The article is predictably titled If Jesus were to come this year, Bethlehem would be closed.
But first of all I want to declare my personal wish for a Christmas present. One measly** dollar for every time I read in The Guardian the following quote (attributed, surely, to a local priest):
"If Jesus were to come this year, Bethlehem would be closed," says the priest of Bethlehem's Beit Jala parish. "He would either have to be born at a checkpoint or at the separation wall. Mary and Joseph would have needed Israeli permission – or to have been tourists."Notwithstanding the fact that for this specific Jewish rabbi the powers that be would have found a way to get in. As they have found the way... but a bit later about that.
The rest of the article is totally predictable, and I would like to limit myself to one other quote only:
Father Shomali's outlook is more glum: "When I look down my church register, many of the historic family names from the area have already gone. In 20 years, I think we will have no more Christians in Bethlehem."Sad, ain't it?
Well, it so happens that this year Ha'aretz decided to publish its own opus on the same place. I mean on Bethlehem. Its title is a bit different: Thousands gather to celebrate Christmas Eve in Bethlehem. And its beginning is a bit different too:
By early evening, the Israeli military, which controls movement in and out of town, said some 55,000 visitors, including foreigners and Arab Christians from Israel, had reached Bethlehem.Do you believe now that the above mentioned rabbi could somehow squeeze between these throngs? You bet...
Palestinian officials in Bethlehem said that with local tourists included, overall turnout was 120,000 - about 30 percent higher than last year.
And now to that quote from Father Shomali. Of course, Phoebe of the Guardian knows the truth perfectly well, but a reminder from the Guardian's local sibling - Ha'aretz couldn't hurt, could it? So:
Yep, Phoebe: and for how much do old tattered half-truths go nowadays in your newspaper? I would like to add to my Christmas wish another buck for Father Shomali's complaint too, if you don't mind.The number of Christians in the West Bank is on the decline, and many speak of persecution by the Muslim majority, but always anonymously, fearing retribution.Christians have even lost their majority in Bethlehem where more than two-thirds of the some 50,000 Palestinian residents are now Muslim.
OK, so I am hanging my (freshly laundered) sock near that oil stove, in lieu of a fireplace. Please, Santa, be a mensch...
(*) In favor of Phoebe: she penned a surprising piece Gaza Christians long for days before Hamas cancelled Christmas. Check it out. Meryl, in fact, already told about that one.
(**) That was a figger of speech. A dollar is still a dollar, although... oh well.
Cross-posted on Yourish.com