O little town of Bethlehem

 

 

Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. "

Bethlehem is a small town in the outskirts of Jerusalem. In AD132-135 the Jewish citizens were expelled under the orders of Hadrian. For the next 800 years, it came under Islamic armies, Catholic Crusader, Ottoman, Egytian, and British rule. It appears that the time of the gentiles is over, and the city to be returned to the Jews. 

In Sojourners article "Heeding the Bethlehem Call: Freedom Comes from Tenacity " by Tom Getham on the 23 Dec 2011 calls our attention to the plight on the Palestinians surrounded by the encroaching walls of Jerusalem 8 km away. Terms used includes:-

  • Non violent freedom for freedom and justice

  • occupation of their [Palestenian] land

  •  shame and isolation of Israel to follow Apartehid South Africa, heresy by supporting zionism

The mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh, together with President Abbas, has called for the isolation of Israel,

“We call for boycotting Israel culturally, educationally, in sports, economics and trade,” the mayor told reporters in Bethlehem. “This is the only way to make Israel come back to the negotiating table and make peace within six months. It worked with South Africa.”

It doesn't work anymore because the Jews went through death at the concentration camps in Europe. Their disapora throughout the world has weakened their claim on Judea/West Bank, but it also meant strong voices of support in US, Britain and Europe. The support amongst a rising Christian voice in the US is getting stronger. Alas, the boycott by the Arab nations started even before 1948.

However, the Palestinians are not totally the innocent hapless victims.  They are backed by the Arab armies. The European Union who now takes the high moral ground condeming Israel are but the former Roman Empire who had expelled the Jews from Judea, and later killed millions in WWII setting the seed for the conflict in Jerusalem.

Despite some cynical attempt to paint the pro-gay approach of Israel as buying sympathy, you can't hide something that is part of the culture and society nor hide the insidious treatment of gays in Palestine. 

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar (ruler of Palestine Gaza)

  • You in the West do not live like human beings. You do not even live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize us?

  • "We have the right to control our life according to our religion, not according to your religion. You have no religion. You are secular."

  • Are these [allowing for same-sex marriage] the laws for which the Palestinian street is waiting? For us to give rights to homosexuals and to lesbians, a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick?

Homosexuality was made illegal just after Hamas came to power in Palestine Gaza. There is little human rights in Gaza when they so loudly talk about peace and justice.

The irony of the entire story is that Bethlehem is a run down place that gained its fame and a major tourist designation because it is the birth place of Jesus Christ, a Jew. They were not the occupied territorries. The Jews and the Christians have a rightful place in Bethlehem. The Jews together with the first Christians were removed from Jerusalem and Bethlehem by the Romans, and later by the Muslim armies. Christians were a major population group in Bethlehem but their population diminished rapidly over the years due to discrimination.

  We could not deny the sufferings and pain of the Palestinians, but some of it may be lost opportunities from the past:-

  • They had oppressed the Jews and Palestinian Christians throughout the history in Bethlehem. They had tried to destroy Israel in the 1948, 1967, 1973 wars which instead ended up loosing much land and becoming refugees.

  • They/Jordan actually owned the entire West Bank prior to the 1967 war when they tried to push Israel back to the Mediterranean sea.

  • They were not the innocent victims but were the proxy of arab nations coming against Israel in an armed conflict hence the need for the walls of separation. Hamas for example, are highly militant.

  • Their ultimate goals conuld hardly said to encompass "freedom and justice" when it is based on strict religious laws which has meant gays fleeing across the walls into Israel.

  • The walls have stopped the suicide bombers and the sniper fire from Palestine.

 

A peace of justice and equality should address the expulsion of the Jews from Judea in the first century AD, and the continuous attempts by the Arab nations to prevent a return, and the sufferings of the Jews in diaspora. With the 6 million dead at the camps of Germany in WWII, a fact still denied by many Arab leaders, there can be no turning back morally and spiritually. A future peace has no meaning without addressing the wrong doings of the past.

When Sojourners are so eager to support the Palestine cause so far away, we are reminded that religious extremism is the main antagonist to freedom and justice, and until we call such religiously motivated anti-gay actions as evil, it undermines their own cause.The Jews and Christians have a righteful place amd heritage in Westbank/Judea. After 800 years of denial, the tide and cycle of history could not be stopped. It's only a little town of 50,000 yet the centre of Jesus birth and now of conflict in the middle east.

We stand together with the 50,000 pilgrims who were in Bethlehem in Christmas 2011 attending the midnight mass at the church of Nativity, where Christ was born. The first church built in AD333 by Constantine was later destroyed and was rebulit in AD 527-565 under Justinian. Today it is part controlled by the Armenian, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox church perhaps giving us an example where the only solution to peace is joint custody where everyone wins.


 
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