Thursday, December 25, 2014

Bethlehem, Christmas 1967

Bethlehem's first Christmas Eve under Israeli-occupation, 1967:

"Bethlehem looked yesterday like a painted mask, frozen and expressionless. Christians may have felt the spirit of Christmas in their hearts but no one showed it openly. Most of them celebrated the feast at home. These few, very few, who were out in the streets looked closed within themselves, and were restrained in their reactions. Truly, it was a sad Christmas. The hundreds of policemen mobilized for the occasion just stood there with nothing to do. The bus and car traffic which was expected but never came reminded me of the common saying, 'The mountain delivered a mouse.' Of the Christians living in Israel only a few attended and those from the West Bank could be counted on one's fingers.

"In Ramallah, the area where there is the biggest concentration of Christians, the atmosphere was much more miserable than in Bethlehem. As one of Bethlehem's merchants told me, 'Would you pray at the Wailing Wall if a Jordanian Arab flag flew over it?'

"Even the great attraction of the evening - the closed TV circuit especially constructed in Bethlehem in order to enable those who had no chance to get into the Church of the Nativity because of the expected crowds, even this had attracted only a few and mainly Israeli citizens, soldiers and policemen.

"All the security men (police and soldiers) were armed with machine-guns. Such a concentration of arms was never seen on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem's history. Mr E. Bandak, the Mayor of Bethlehem, told us that 'all was traditional, like every year.' When we asked why the people seem so disinterested and the streets so deserted and gloomy he answered that 'happiness is something in the heart.'

"This same evening paper on December 24, gave its editorial the following heading: 'This is our test. For the first time in history, Christmas is to be celebrated under the Israeli flag'." (Frozen mass in Bethlehem but not because of the weather, Zvi Lavi, Ma'ariv, 25/12/67)


patrick connor said...

Merry Christmas Merc .

MERC said...

And to you too, Patrick.