Friday, December 26, 2003

Christmas, A Day Just Like Any Other!

Beit Lahm, the birthplace of Jesus, was crowded with Christian Palestinians, whose hearts were filled with worries and insecurity rather than joy of celebrating Christmas. Surrounded with Israeli army pointing their guns towards the little smiling angels “to assure a peaceful and a secure atmosphere”, the lights of Christmas were once again shut down leaving this holy city as dark as the deep of an ocean.
Israel announced that it will loosen the military blockage imposed in the West Bank to allow the pilgrims to join the city and its church at the time of Christmas. Yet most of the spectators were inhabitants of the city and salesmen of souvenirs. This almost total absence of pilgrims is a sad phenomena, for Beit Lahm used to be filled with pilgrims from around the world to celebrate and pray together. Not to forget that Israel forbid the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat for the third year in a row , from sharing his people such an occasion. On the other hand, Isreal’s restrictions didn’t succeed in preventing thousands of Christian Palestinians from meeting together to attend the traditional procession of before the midnight mass, directed by Michel Sabbah, a Latin patriarch of Jerusalem.
" Earlier ,people were accustomed to spending all the year awaiting Christmas. Nowadays, Christmas is one day like any other day of the year", said a taxi driver to the daily newspaper “La Presse”. Christine Jildeh, a Christian woman living in Jerusalem added: “There are so much people who are afraid to come. Road controls are such a burden. Many people think that it is simply better remain where they are”. "There are almost no tourists, only people from here. There has been no work for three years because there are no more tourists ", said Caroline Mickel in front of her souvenir shop.
The stop signs installed in all roads of Beit Lahm and the close villages, as well as the construction work on the neighboring hills of the Israeli “safety fence”, leave the inhabitants little hope to transport and gather.
Islamic as well as Christian holy occasions have lost their taste and joy in Palestine. And while all the people of the world celebrate the birth of the three religions, Palestine, the source of all the three is left to suffer alone; left to mourn the loss of its people silently without the right to even kiss them goodbye.