Thursday, December 25, 2008

O, little town of Bethlehem

Cross posted by Findalis of Monkey in the Middle

Bethlehem, the name brings to mind the birthplace of David, of Jesus. The tomb of Rachel. A place where peace and tranquility should prevail. But the truth behind the PA lies is not a pretty picture. While the MSM describes the exodus of Christians from Bethlehem and blames the Israeli government for it. The truth is uglier than it really is.
A number of Christian families have finally decided to break their silence and talk openly about what they describe as Muslim persecution of the Christian minority in this city.

The move comes as a result of increased attacks on Christians by Muslims over the past few months. The families said they wrote letters to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the Vatican, Church leaders and European governments complaining about the attacks, but their appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

According to the families, many Christians have long been afraid to complain in public about the campaign of "intimidation" for fear of retaliation by their Muslim neighbors and being branded "collaborators" with Israel.

But following an increase in attacks on Christian-owned property in the city over the past few months, some Christians are no longer afraid to talk about the ultra-sensitive issue. And they are talking openly about leaving the city.

"The situation is very dangerous," said Samir Qumsiyeh, owner of the Beit Sahur-based private Al-Mahd (Nativity) TV station. "I believe that 15 years from now there will be no Christians left in Bethlehem. Then you will need a torch to find a Christian here. This is a very sad situation."

Qumsiyeh, one of the few Christians willing to speak about the harsh conditions of their community, has been the subject of numerous death threats. His house was recently attacked with fire-bombs, but no one was hurt.

Full Story

Who would believe that in the 21st Century Christians would be persecuted for their beliefs? And the MSM blames Israel for this when it is the stated policy of the late Yassar Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.

Question: What's worse than being bullied, harassed, intimidated and persecuted for your faith?

Answer: Being bullied, harassed, intimidated and persecuted for your faith – and watching the perpetrator of these crimes against humanity successfully blame someone else for committing them.

That's exactly what is happening to Christians today in Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. They are being beaten up. They are being killed. They are having their businesses burned down. They are watching their daughters raped. They are being run out of their ancestral homelands.

And the very people doing this – Arafat's PA – are blaming it all on Israel.

The latest evidence of this campaign came on Christmas Day in an editorial in the Jordan Times.

Interestingly, the editorial doesn't sugar-coat the toll on Christians.

Full Story
Christians are leaving as fast as they can. In a decade or two there will be no Christians in the city and the PA will be able to do what they have planned all along: To Turn the Church of the Nativity into a mosque.

Greeting that welcomes pilgrims who enter Nazareth.

Palestinian Authority's Treatment of Christians
Christians in the Palestinian Authority
Palestinian Christians: Victims not Partners

These are but a few articles. A larger list is here.

A sad commentary is in today's Jerusalem Post. A sad look at what was, what is and what might have been.
"O, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie." This is truer today than it ever has been since this song was written many years ago. Phillip Brooks, a Christian, wrote it in 1865 while on a horse from Jerusalem to Bethlehem for a midnight service. Although a few tourists do come, especially now at this Christmas season, Bethlehem remains still, unlike years past.

It's been eight years since I last set foot in Bethlehem. As a Jewish Israeli tour guide, I am forbidden by law to endanger myself and go to this once colorful city. Gone are the days when thousands went to Bethlehem. Tourists, pilgrims from around the world, shoppers, and Israeli Arabs and Jews came. Gone are the days when you could eat the best falafel and humous in the little stone building across from Rachel's Tomb. I remember the bargains. There was the wonderful flea market in the Bethlehem shuk . We came on aliya in the '80s and with our limited budget could go to Bethlehem and buy good furniture at bargain prices - delivery was free. The rattan and the wicker outdoor furniture was good and cheap. Pillows were thrown in at bargain prices.

WE ATE in all those lovely outdoor cafés in and around Manger Square. We walked around with our tourists and enjoyed the ambiance and atmosphere.

Many times I stayed overnight with my pilgrims on Christmas Eve. A few times we were near Manger Square and I remember the sweet sounds of the choirs which came from all over the world to celebrate Christmas in the city where Jesus was born. Each sang the familiar Christmas carols in its own language. It was glorious. The Catholics came in droves from all over the country. They came for midnight Mass amid great pomp and ceremony and, as a guide, I had the privilege of seeing and participating in many of these celebrations. I often had an opportunity to talk to reporters. Some were just tourists themselves and I tried to make them Zionists. Sometimes they listened. We became friends. Those times are over.

We were so safe and sound and comfortable on those Christmas eves and days. We were surrounded by the IDF. It maintained the peace, offered security for crowds that otherwise might have gotten out of control.

I REMEMBER one morning many years ago, in the '80s, when I arose early on a Christmas morning. I looked down from my second-floor window overlooking Manger Square. What to my wondering eyes did appear? No, not Santa and his reindeer, but Israeli soldiers all over the square with big blue plastic bags. At the approach of dawn, they were leaning down and filling them with cigarette butts, candy wrappers, leftover food and all the trash the pilgrims and tourists had dropped the night before.

It brought tears to my eyes. We had control then and we did our job. Bethlehem, the city where King David was also born, was still ours.

TODAY, BETHLEHEM is a virtual ghost town at night. No one dares venture out. There is no security and no rule of law. Most of the Christians have left, and the few stores and shopkeepers who remain have a hard time making ends meet.

We don't go to Bethlehem anymore, though it is only a few kilometers away. It is so close and yet so far. It is closed to you and me, probably for many years ahead. However, we know that things change, so perhaps, as the song suggests, in those dark streets will shine an everlasting light and perhaps the hopes and fears of all these years may once again meet in the night.
It has already been decided by Hamas that if they ever got full control of the West Bank and God Forbid, the nation of Israel they will do the following:
  1. Kill all the Jews in the land.
  2. Drive out, force conversions or kill all the Druse, Baha'i and Christians in the land.
  3. Have the land only for Muslims and destroy or convert other faiths holy sites for Muslim only use.
  4. Impose Shar'ia Law
The last one is coming true.
The Hamas parliament in the Gaza Strip voted in favor of a law allowing courts to mete out sentences in the spirit of Islam, the London-based Arab daily Al Hayat reported Wednesday.

According to the bill, approved in its second reading and awaiting a third reading before the approval of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as the Palestinian constitution demands, courts will be able to condemn offenders to a plethora of violent punitive measures in line with Sharia Law.

Such punishments include whipping, severing hands, crucifixion and hanging. The bill reserves death sentences to people who negotiate with a foreign government "against Palestinian interests" and engage in any activity that can "hurt Palestinian morale."

According to the report, any Palestinian caught drinking or selling wine would suffer 40 lashes at the whipping post if the bill passes. Thieves caught red-handed would lose their right hand.
How much long will Christian pilgrims be allowed to worship in Bethlehem? The PA just might continue the charade for a while, but only for a while and a very high fee for their protection. After a bit, there will be no more Christians allowed at one of the most holiest sites in their faith. And the world's media would still blame that on Israel and the Jews.

I ask Christians on this holiday to remember their persecuted brothers and sisters in Bethlehem in their prayers.

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