The birthplace of Jesus is a place of oppression, dispossession and occupation. Read some of the posters that reveal how the Separation Wall affects people's lives and a glimpse into how Christmas is celebrated by Palestinian Christians and Muslims in Bethlehem.
Bethlehem is separated from Jerusalem by a 26-foot high, concrete wall. Following are two of the many story posters on the Wall. (See Nov 13 issue for more stories.)
Not as a Family
“We have an aunt living behind the wall on the Jerusalem side. Before they built the wall, we used to visit her all the time but now we can only go when we have a permit, maybe at Christmas. But then most of the time they only give me a permit and not my husband, or the other way round. But we want to go as a family, to feel freedom, to go and see the sea, for instance. The children ask me, "Mama, we want to go and have fun, why can't we go?" I tell them that we cannot go because we are living in a prison and do not have permission to leave. We cannot go because we are controlled by the Israelis. I tell them because I think they need to know.”
Mira, from Bethlehem
Bethlehem Youth and Christmas
“Christmas is special to us. The Patriarch enters Bethlehem the day before Christmas. As members of the scouts we join him, playing the drums and windpipes. Afterwards, we hand out chocolates on the street. Some of us sell calendars. We celebrate Christmas eve with a family barbecue. Some of us sit for hours at Manger Square when international concert groups perform music. Then we watch evening fireworks. That night we sleep only a few hour. The following day, when it is Christmas, we have a late breakfast, attend the Church with our families and enjoy a huge lunch afterwards. Then we go and visit relatives.”
Some Bethlehem youth
“I am the owner of a souvenir shop in Bethlehem. The birthplace of Jesus, the messenger of love, has become an open prison. The irony is terrible but undeniable. Bethlehem is not only about Christmas anymore, but also about occupation. Both fundamentally impact unpon our lives.”
Elias, from Bethlehem
Carving designed by Claire Anastas, a resident of Bethlehem. It shows the shepherds on one side of the wall and the manger on the other. The wall is removable. Claire's prayer is for Bethlehem to be an open city, accessible to all.
Read more about Claire at: anastas-bethlehem.com