Bethlehem skips Christmas; Bethlehem is hell

Bethlehem will go without Christmas this year.

BETHLEHEM - There'll be no Christmas tree in Manger Square. No festive lights. And no singing.

Palestinian Christians decided yesterday to strip the traditional symbols of joy from the celebration of the birth of Christ in the Holy Land to protest Israel's clampdown on Bethlehem.

The Bethlehem municipality will not put up lights or decorate the tree opposite the Church of the Nativity, said Mayor Hanna Nasser, a Palestinian Christian.

Israel said it is simply fighting terror - and has no choice but to stay put as long as militants living in Bethlehem are planning new murderous acts.

But to begin to understand what it means to live in an occupied city, it helps to hear from the inside. Paola Michael teaches English in Bethlehem. Here she writes about the momentary lifting of a 24-hour three-week long curfew. The Israelis had suddenly announced a lifting of the curfew from 10 am to 4 pm.
The school day was supposed to end at 3:30 p.m., since the curfew was going to be reimposed at 4.

Then, at 1:30, out of the blue, the Israelis changed their minds and announced the curfew again. They had jeeps patrolling the streets and soldiers throwing tear gas and fake noise bombs to scare people to go home.

Imagine the classrooms! Parents running to get their kids and make it home before an Israeli jeep caught them. Teachers running to a bank to get cash to buy food for the next few days for their families.

Except that the bank had run out of cash, so people were trying to find anyone who could give them money. The lines outside the banks were just outrageous.

On top of that, it was pouring, foggy, slippery and cold. It was pure hell.

I myself made it home safely through a back road, but I still only had crackers and water in my fridge to last me another four days until they lift the curfew again.

I had survived yet another day in Bethlehem.

merry christmas

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Published on December 18, 2002 3:34 PM.

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