Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from Bethlehem

Merry Christmas to all....from the birth place of Jesus Christ, Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas...pray for Palestinian Christians, especially Bethlehem Christian, their population is declining drastically in their own home land.

Bethlehem (or Bet Leḥem, Bayt Lahm) is a city located in the central West Bank and approximately 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism. The Hebrew Bible identifies Bethlehem as the city David was from and the location where he was crowned as the king of Israel. The New Testament identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The town is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, although the size of the community has shrunk due to emigration.

Many of Bethlehem's Christian inhabitants claim ancestry from Arab Christian clans from the Arabian Peninsula, including the city's two largest: al-Farahiyya and an-Najajreh. The former claims to have descended from the Ghassanids who migrated from Yemen to the Wadi Musa area in present-day Jordan and an-Najajreh descend from the Arabs of Najran in the southern Hejaz. Another Bethlehem clan, al-Anantreh, also trace their ancestry to the Arabian Peninsula.The percentage of Christians in the town has been steadily falling, primarily due to emigration. The lower birth rate of Christians also accounts for some of the decline. In 1947, Christians made up 85% of the population, but by 1998 the figure had declined to 40%. In 2005, the mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh explained that "due to the stress, either physical or psychological, and the bad economic situation, many people are emigrating, either Christians or Muslims, but it is more apparent among Christians, because they already are a minority.

In the center of Bethlehem is its old city. The old city consists of eight quarters, laid out in a mosaic style, forming the area around the Manger Square. The quarters include the Christian al-Najajreh, al-Farahiyeh, al-Anatreh, al-Tarajmeh, al-Qawawsa and Hreizat quarters and al-Fawaghreh — the only Muslim quarter. Most of the Christian quarters are named after the Arab Ghassanid clans that settled there. Al-Qawawsa Quarter was formed by Arab Christian emigrants from the nearby town of Tuqu' in the 18th century.

Bethlehem has a Muslim majority, but is also home to one of the largest Palestinian Christian communities. Bethlehem's chief economic sector is tourism which peaks during the Christmas season when Christian pilgrims throng to the Church of the Nativity.

(source: wikipedia,

In 1997, I was visiting Church of the Nativity, and that was the first time I saw the Arabic bible and Arabic Hymn book. The first time my knowledge of Palestine changed. I realized the picture that the mass media and some government media provided were totally not correct. Palestine is not a place for specific religion, there are Palestinian Christian.....there are Arabic Christian. Middle East is not all Arab....I begin to read history of middle east, may not be a good student, but at least I understand middle east better, better than many who still has wrong perception....I know who is Edward Said, I know where is Beit Jala....Middle East history is much more complicated ....Israeli-Arab conflict was wrongly perceived by the world as solely religion conflict, instead of political conflict, the issue is much more complicated with their long history of the land......of Near East, with wars, colonization, Turkification, Arabization, resulted in complication of religious conversion, cultural and language assimilation,and even the loss of ethnic identity, culture and languages. It was the sad story of Near East. from historical times, it was not easy for minority and the weak to survive in the Near East...

Another place to remember is Beit Jala....facing similar problem...

Palestinian Christians are Christians descended from the people of the geographical area of Palestine, the birthplace of Christianity. Within Palestine, there are churches and believers from many Christian denominations, including Oriental Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholic (Eastern and Western rites), Protestant, and others. In both the local dialect of Palestinian Arabic and in classical or modern standard Arabic, Christians are called Nasrani (a derivative of the Arabic word for Nazareth, al-Nasira) or Masihi (a derivative of Arabic word Masih, meaning "Messiah"). In Hebrew, they are called Notzri (also spelt Notsri) which means "Nazarene" in Hebrew.

The Palestinian Christian, like other Arabic Christian are living in dilemma, like sandwich between Israel Jews and Muslim Palestinian. The conflict between Jews(Israel) and Muslim Palestinian(Palestine), caused much psychological pressure and physical stress to them, they identify with Palestinian nationalism, many of them are in the front line of their struggle. But they are not able to identify in their religion, they are different and distinct as Christian. Some are not Arab per se, they cannot identify with the Pan-Arabism. This identity crisis created political pressure to their people , properties, and culture. They cannot identify with Jews, they are of different race and religion. The stress is too much to bear, they choose to emigrate to other countries. Their population is declining fast in their own land....

But the world identified them wrongly in the conflict, based on religion, they are wrongly perceived with Jews, based in culture and homeland, they are perceived with Muslim Arabs. (Ironically the three religions have the same root from Abraham, they should have close relationship). But they have their own distinct identity, Palestinian Christian, they are not Jews nor Muslim Arabs,only fact is that Palestine is their home land. Both did not give them a chance, they suffered the most in the Israeli-Arab conflict, but no body care because they are the minority, they have no political power, nor military power. Ultimately, they leave their homeland, and others moved in .... Jew settlement, Palestinian from other place and sooner there may not be any Palestinian Christian in the Bethlehem for Christmas. Bethlehem will lost its living heritage, the people of Palestinian Christian, and remained as a town for tourism only. We hope this will not happen....

......a sad story and yet the world is silence....and happy forever in their celebration of commercial Christmas....forgetting the people from the land of Christ, the land of Christmas, Bethlehem......

The world remember Christmas day, but forget the real story of the Christmas....

Note: The basilica was placed on the 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites by the World Monuments Fund:

The present state of the church is worrying. Many roof timbers are rotting, and have not been replaced since the 19th century. The rainwater that seeps into the building not only accelerates the rotting of the wood and damages the structural integrity of the building, but also damages the 12th-century wall mosaics and paintings. The influx of water also means that there is an ever-present chance of an electrical fire. If another earthquake were to occur on the scale of the one of 1834, the result would most likely be catastrophic. ... It is hoped that the listing will encourage its preservation, including getting the three custodians of the church - the Greek Orthodox Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, and the Franciscan order - to work together, which has not happened for hundreds of years. The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority would also have to work together to protect it.

(source: World Monuments Fund,

Further references:

1. Palestinian Christians,
2. A Visit to Beit Jala,
3. Arab Christians,
4. Church of the Nativity,
5. Christians in the Middle East - 11 May 09 - Part 1 - Riz Khan at Al Jazeera English
6. Christians in the Middle East - 11 May 09 - Part 2 - Riz Khan at Al Jazeera English
7. List of oldest churches,

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