Some 2,000 years ago in Palestine a great census was commanded by Caesar Augustus who wanted to count all the people in the world, the Romans were nothing if not motivated. Everyone had to go to the place where they originally came from which in the case of the Palestinian Jewish family we know as Joseph and his wife Mary who was ‘with child’ meant a journey from Galilee across Palestine to the ‘City of David, known as Bethlehem’. Not long after the birth they all three had to take flight because Herod wanted the child dead, and the rest as they say, is history, and the carols, cribs and festivities are going still. Inevitably where there is money to be made the pill gets sweetened, creative writing goes on and we all now think of Bethlehem as a wonderful place, just look at the Christmas cards, the reality however was different. In fact 2,000 years later Bethlehem is suffering much the same as it did back then only the brutal occupiers are from Israel not Rome.
Bethlehem which is an Arab Palestinian town is encircled today on three sides by Israel’s illegal West Bank Wall and can only be accessed by one entry/exit point which is ruthlessly patrolled by the Israeli Army, it’s citizens are effectively prisoners. Israeli settlements are scattered across land belonging to Bethlehem and Israeli soldiers guard who goes in and out with a series of checkpoints, roadblocks, gates and heavily armed occupying Israeli troops. Prior to the creation of Israel in 1948 Arabs, Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived peacefully side by side. Bethlehem Muslims can in fact still be seen today worshiping beside their Christian neighbours in the famous “Church of the Nativity”, a place which most people in fact wrongly think is in Israel rather than in Palestine. Around 28 thousand people live in Bethlehem while about three times that number approximately 90,000 live in squalid refugee camps in desperate conditions around the outskirts of the city and have done since 1948. All of this is taking place despite being declared illegal by the International Court and the United Nations, Israel it seems can do what it likes as long as America backs it up.
Bethlehem has stood on the cutting edge of the Israeli occupation for some 66 years and has become a symbol of injustice and an affront to human decency, which is a far cry from the “The little town of Bethlehem” greetings cards which we all have hanging on our walls. No one should stop celebrating Christmas because of what Israel is doing but we should be aware that if Joseph and the pregnant Mary were to fetch up at the gates of Bethlehem on December 25Th. 20 14 in nine days time they would not find the situation all that dissimilar, Arab mothers sometimes give birth at the Israeli controlled gates to Bethlehem while queuing to be authorised to access maternity treatment. Personally, I make a point of never doing anything that would help Israel in any way, no contact, no purchases and criticism always. It might not be worth anything and might not make a difference and this blog article might be the same but it makes me feel better. I urge you to do the same.