Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The Reason Christmas is Bittersweet in Bethlehem
One would get a rather distorted perspective reading George Rishmawi's "Christmas Is Bittersweet in Bethlehem" commentary in Thursday's Herald.
According to the Palestinian Authority's tourism minister, Khuloud Deibes, the number of tourists to the Palestinian Authority controlled territories has quadrupled to two million over the last two years, with 80 percent of them going to Bethlehem.
In large measure, this boom results from the efforts Israel has taken, particularly the security barrier about which Rishmawi rails, which have broken the back of the wave of terrorism the Palestinian Arabs launched when they rejected peace and the establishment of their own state in 2000. The decline of terrorism has enabled a measure of normality to return to the disputed territories.
Unfortunately, the situation for Christians living in Bethlehem and other parts of the disputed territories is far from happy, but the primary culprit is not, as Mishmawi would have one believe, the Israelis but rather the Arab Muslims.
Since Hamas took over Gaza, the owner of Gaza's only Christian bookstore was abducted and murdered, Christian shops and schools have been firebombed and Christians have been fleeing.
The situation is little better in the West Bank. According to the Associated Press, even in Bethlehem, "Christians live on a knife's edge ¬¶ and Muslims often stand in front of the gate of the Bible College and read from the Quran to intimidate Christian students. Other Muslims like to roll out their prayer rugs right in Manger Square."
Ironically, according to UPI, "the story's [oppression of Christians] the same in Egypt, Iraq and elsewh! ere in t he Mideast. Practically the only place in the region where the Christian population is growing is in Israel."
This reality is completely missing from the distorted picture painted by Rishmawi.