No Christmas in Bethlehem? The Christians Rebel
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
The Eponymous Flower
Monday, December 21, 2015
Bethlehem With Traditional Lights in 2015
(Jersualem) The Palestinian Authority has asked all of the West Bank to cancel all public Christmas festivities. There is nothing to celebrate, it is said, referring to the continuing violence in October between Palestinians and Israelis, which has already claimed 147 deaths.
Palestinian Authority and Tanzim militia: “There’s nothing to celebrate”
Bethlehem also had to bow to political pressure – at least partially. “That right in Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born, Christmas must only celebrated quietly, is a sad absurdity,” said the Catholic weekly magazine Tempi.
The Tanzim militia, the armed wing of Fatah, called for by the municipality of Bethlehem, that erected in the square in front of the Nativity this year no Christmas tree and no crib, no Christmas lights set up in the square and in the streets, no Christmas concerts and also the traditional fireworks will not be set off. The Tanzim militia was established in 1995 by Yasser Arafat as a counterweight to the propagating among Palestinian Muslims Islamism of Hamas. It bases its claim on the new Intifada. As long as Israeli soldiers, police and special forces kill Palestinians, “there is nothing to celebrate.”
Bethlehem had a Christian majority until a few decades ago. Through the establishment of the State of Israel and the Jewish-Palestinian conflict there was a different demographic development, the Christians are now in the minority. Due to an internal Palestinian agreement between Muslims and Christians, Bethlehem has nevertheless in Vera Baboun a Christian mayor. It is thanks to Baboun’s stubborn resistance that despite the conditions in Bethlehem Christmas will be celebrated publicly in 2015.
The fireworks and the Christmas concert of the tenor Andrea Bocelli were cancelled. The Christmas lights will be only reduced. Only the two main streets are illuminated. But Baboun made the Chistmas trees on 5 December visible for miles around (see picture) and made the manger big. The traditional procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem will take place on 24 December.
The procession is as usual to be led by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, led and crosses on the wall built by the Israelis. The Christmas procession connects the two cities, which lie within sight and played a central role in the life of Jesus. “The birth of Jesus took place already facing Jerusalem, where he suffered death, but is risen. The two cities are inextricably linked,” says Jamal Khader, the rector of the Latin Patriarchate in Bethlehem.
“It is impossible for Christians to Cancel Christmas”
“We are in a critical situation,” said Mayor Baboun to the press. “But it is impossible for a Christian to cancel Christmas. And it is mandatory for Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas. “Even Jamal Khader, Palestinian Christian and known peace activist, stressed that it was “unthinkable” not to celebrate Christmas. However, Khader showed understanding that it should happen this year publicly if being somewhat subdued. “We can not hide what is happening currently. Here you are going to lose the hope of a future of peace.”
Mayor Vera Baboun fights tenaciously for Christmas, but because of the majority this has its limits. Ekram Juha, her office manager, took the sentiment towards the Washington Post to the point: “I am disappointed. I can understand if you restrict the festivities somewhere, but not here in Bethlehem. If one restricts Christmas here, where Jesus was born, it has a spiritual dimension. It relates to the sacred. Apart from this we have lived for many years under difficult conditions, yet the festivities have always taken place.”
A “miracle” that Christians endure in Bethlehem
The latest “miracle of Bethlehem,” said La Repubblica, it is that Christians remain in Bethlehem, persevere in the birthplace of Christ, even though they have been harassed, threatened and attacked by gangs of young Muslims. And that yet they celebrate Christmas in defiance of orders.”
When Bethlehem was partitioned in 1948, when the UN authority proclaimed the State of Israel, its population was made up of 85 percent of Christians. The Muslim share was 12 percent. The birthplace of Jesus through all the centuries had been a sheltered place for Christians. Because of the political situation and the economic problems, Christians migrate and Muslims have more children. 20 years later, 1967, the majority was overturned.Today Christians are only 12 percent in the city. The Christians fear to be displaced entirely in 20 years from Bethlehem. A “land Mafia” is using tried criminal methods, violence and official networking to drive the Christians from their land. Since the 90s, also takes place Islamization of Palestinian Muslims.