The recent article published in the Finnish Luthern Church newspaper Kotimaa, “Suljettu Betlehem valmistautuu jouluun” (22.12.2005 by Kimmo Saares), unfortunately contained some false claims as well as ommissions by both the Palesitinian church official and mayor interviewed.
Most noticeably absent from the interview was any mention of, or reference to, Arab terrorism, the chief cause for Israeli security measures. A very good article in the JPost, “Christian Wish List”, concerning the unfortunate fate awaiting the tiny Christian community in the Palestinian Authority if nothing is done, and the need for the international Christian community to address their joint concerns to the Palestinian leadership in order to prevent further persecution.
Only when the Palestinian Authority begins to respect the human rights/civil liberties of their minorities, can they be expected to do the same for their neighbors. One could only hope for the Finnish Luthern Church to realize, that the use of terrorism by Palestinian Arab Muslims are not only against Israelis, but against their fellow Christians as well.
Civility begins at home.
According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
There is no barrier (completely encircling) Bethlehem. There is only a fence where the Bethlehem area interfaces with Jerusalem and close to the 1949 armistice line. Only a very small segment of the fence is a concrete wall preventing terrorists from shooting at motorists.
The economy has actually improved significantly. While 110,000 tourists visited the city during 2004, more than 218,000 have already visited Bethlehem during 2005 – an increase of around 100%.
There have been corresponding increases in Bethlehem’s main industries: Textiles 50%, Stone and marble export 40%, commercial transportation 20%. These increases have brought millions of dollars into the local economy.
The IDF has decided to take a “calculated risk” to make access easier for tourists. According to IDF Lt. Col. Aviv Feigel in the Jerusalem Post, “The military will try to speed the process by not checking every tourist bus, but conducting spot checks of random buses instead.”
Israel is taking these steps despite the fact that “Half of the Israeli terror fatalities in 2004 came from attackers who entered Jerusalem from Bethlehem.”
The Palestinian Arab Muslim majority are pushing Christians out of Bethlehem, as the FrontPage magazine points out, forcing the city’s Christian residents to leave.
The Vatican, in a rare diplomatic move, called publicly on the Israelis to intervene in Bethlehem on behalf of its severely receding Christian population. Now totaling less than 12% of Bethlehem’s population, Christians, who have been the targets of continual PA violence, might leave entirely. The result will be that in the place where Jesus was born there will no longer be a Christian community.
And just this week, Palestinian gunmen disrupted Christmas preparations in Bethlehem taking over the municipality building across from the Church of Nativity (See Associated Press). For a detailed report on Muslim violence against Christians that is largely ignored by the media, click here. Despite the Palestinian efforts to push out Christian residents, this holiday season will see thousands of pilgrims celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem.