Oy Little Town of Bethlehem

In 1978, we went to Bethlehem. My husband and I and our five children packed into a taxi and among other places, visited the Church of the Nativity. We took some pictures so that my husband’s colleagues, Christian chaplains, would be able to see the church as we experienced it. It was on a summer’s day that was bright and sunny and very hot. As we bent down to enter the church through the very short door, we felt the coolness of the church’s interior. What I remember most was the silence and peace of the place. We were the only tourists at the time and after spending a couple of minutes, we left.

About ten years later, we drove through Bethlehem, this time in a private car. The first intifada had already broken out and we all knew to ride without seatbelts through Bethlehem so that were we to be shot at or firebombed, we could escape the car quickly.

As the years passed, the Oslo accords turned Bethlehem over to the Palestinian Authority. Visitors to Rachel’s tomb, the tomb of one of the matriarchs of the Bible, on the outskirts of Bethlehem were stoned and fired upon by Palestinians necessitating the building of heavy walls around the tomb to safeguard the visitors. This, even though Rachel’s Tomb was left in Israeli hands.

A couple of years ago a bunch of terrorists barricaded themselves inside the Church of the Nativity and shot at Israeli troops from inside. After a long stand-off, Israel was persuaded to export some of the terrorists to Europe where they were to be closely monitored and others were to be jailed in Jericho under the watchful eyes of the Americans. Most of them are now free and unaccounted for.

During the most recent intifada, Christian Arabs, residents of Bethlehem and the areas surrounding it, have left, fearful of their Muslim neighbors who threatened their existence. Hal Lindsey writes about the phenomenon at http://www.hallindseyoracle.com/articles.asp?HLCA=Next&HLC=12190

Israelis can no longer drive through Bethlehem and foreign tourists we spoke with recently express fear at visiting the Church of the Nativity.

There are those who believe that the war being fought against Israel and the Jewish people would end if all of the land of Israel were turned over to the Arabs. However, for those who look carefully, it becomes clear that the war is not just against Israel; it is against the Christians too and any who are not ready to accept the most radical forms of Islam.

And peaceful little Bethlehem has become the symbol of the innocent victims of the hatred and terror.

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