Greetings for Latin Christmas to all who celebrate today; of course for much of the Middle East, Christmas is still in the future, and my discussion of Middle Eastern Christmas customs will continue. Last night the Latin Patriarch celebrated in Bethlehem and Manger Square was filled with pilgrims and tourists, as it will be again on January 6-7. But Bethlehem's once flourishing pilgrim trade is not what it once was, as least when it isn't Christmas..
Bethlehem's location just south of the "Green Line" and the proximity of the Israeli neighborhoods/settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo, as well as the presence on the edge of town of the shrine known as Rachel's Tomb, means that few parts of the West Bank feel the presence of Israel's Separation Wall as profoundly as Bethlehem. As the struggle to control the future of the Jerusalem region intensifies, Bethlehem remains caught in the middle.
Each year we see variations on these cartoons:
It's not my purpose here, today, to rehash the whole Israeli-Palestinian debate; we aren't going to solve it here. on Christmas. Merely to note the profound impact that conflict has had on a city we sing about but far too many never think about.
I still wish everyone Christmas greetings.