Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas in Bethlehem Destroyed by Israel?

 by Maggie at Maggie's Notebook

I guess I haven't been paying attention the past few years. I didn't know that Israel has destroyed life for Christians in the town of Bethlehem to the point that Christians have left in a "massive flight."

Bethlehem - Manger Square

WorldNetDaily has this story, and I found it via AmerIsrael. According to WND's Aaron Klein, Reuters, the GuardianUK and others, are in the habit of reporting, each year at this time, the terrible treatment of Christians by Jews in Bethlehem. If you do not have time to read the portions below, or time to go directly to WND to read the entire piece, read the three paragraphs in bold text below, and you will get the idea.
TEL AVIV – Like clockwork, every year at this time reporters file misleading and, in some cases, outright false reports about the state of Christmas in Bethlehem [blaming Israel for the demise of the Christian population]. 

They claim Israeli policies have wreaked havoc on the city's economy and that Israel is responsible for the massive flight of Christians from Bethlehem. Yet the news media completely ignore Muslim intimidation and get their facts wrong on documented history and the true state of affairs in this ancient town.

A widely circulated Reuters article, for example, laments "Christmas cheer hasn't spread to all of Bethlehem's residents," squarely blaming "an Israeli wall" for the town's misfortunes. Britains' Press and Journal also paints a dismal picture of Bethlehem, claiming the city is "divided by a huge wall" and that the "26ft-high security wall completes the isolation of Bethlehem and prevents it from ever expanding." The piece also wrongly states that about 2 percent of Bethlehem's population is Christian.

An opinion piece by Austen Ivereigh in the London Guardian, meanwhile, also claims Bethlehem is "shuttered and depressed" by an "Israeli separation wall."

"I don't just mean the structure itself – 30 feet high, bristling with watchtowers and formed of grey concrete slabs – but where it is built, deep into the town itself, far into the West Bank, severing Bethlehem from Jerusalem and ensuring the relentless expansion eastwards of Jewish-only settlements built on land seized from Palestinian farmers," the Guardian piece claims. Regarding the "wall" that "surrounds" Bethlehem: Israel built a fence in 2002 in the area where northern Bethlehem interfaces with Jerusalem. A tiny segment of the barrier, facing a major Israeli roadway, is a concrete wall that Israel says is meant to prevent gunmen from shooting at Israeli motorists....

Amazingly, Ivereigh's piece in the Guardian falsely claimed: "Bethlehem is shuttered and depressed not because of Koran-wielding thugs but because the wall has smashed its economy. The town has become a ghetto, severed from lands to the north and west by the wall, and to the south and east by settler-only roads and a forest of checkpoints, leaving it barely able to trade."
Simple demographic facts disprove this contention entirely. Israel built the barrier seven years ago. But Bethlehem's Christian population started to drastically decline in 1995, the very year Arafat's Palestinian Authority took over the holy Christian city in line with the U.S.-backed Oslo Accords.
Bethlehem was more than 80 percent Christian when Israel was founded in 1948. But after Arafat took control, the city's Christian population plummeted to its current 23 percent. And that statistic is considered generous since it includes the satellite towns of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. Some estimates place Bethlehem's actual Christian population as low as 12 percent, with hundreds of Christians emigrating each year.
As soon as he took over Bethlehem, Arafat unilaterally fired the city's Christian politicians and replaced them with Muslim cronies. He appointed a Muslim governor, Muhammed Rashad A-Jabar, and deposed of Bethlehem's city council, which had nine Christians and two Muslims, reducing the number of Christians councilors to a 50-50 split.
Arafat then converted a Greek Orthodox monastery next to the Church of Nativity, the believed birthplace of Jesus, into his official Bethlehem residence.
Suddenly, after the Palestinians gained the territory, reports of Christian intimidation by Muslims began to surface.

Christian leaders and residents told this reporter they face an atmosphere of regular hostility. They said Palestinian armed groups stir tension by holding militant demonstrations and marches in the streets. They spokes of instances in which Christian shopkeepers' stores were ransacked and Christian homes attacked. 

They said in the past, Palestinian gunmen fired at Israelis from Christian hilltop communities, drawing Israeli anti-terror raids to their towns.

In 2002, dozens of terrorists holed up inside the Church of the Nativity for 39 days while fleeing a massive Israeli anti-terror operation. Israel surrounded the church area but refused to storm the structure....

Some Christian leaders said one of the most significant problems facing Christians in Bethlehem is the rampant confiscation of land by Muslim gangs.

One religious novelty store owner recently told WND that Muslim gangs regularly deface Christian property.

"We are harassed, but you wouldn't know the truth. No one says anything publicly about the Muslims. This is why Christians are running away."
 The City of the birth of Christ, the birth of King David, and the tomb of Rachel is under Palestinian governance, and has a Muslim majority population.

In 2007 the city had approximately 25,000 residents with Christians making up 20% of the citizenry. With life made difficult for Christians, and the fact that Christians propagate at a much slower rate than Muslims, the Christian presence in Bethlehem is dwindling.

Read about Christmas observances by Christians in Bethlehem here and about the Church of the Nativity and the birthplace of Christ here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The War on Christmas and Christianity Continues in 2009!

The War on Christmas and Christianity Continues in 2009!
A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet


OK, let me make it as clear as I am able right up front! I am not interested in “multiculturalism” and I am even less interested in “inclusivity.” I am an Isolationist at heart, but a realist… out of practicality.

Having cleared the air, I can get on with these few comments.

It is time for America to celebrate Christmas. For those of the Christian community it is a grand time of celebrating the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ, from whose name the word Christmas, or “Christ Mass,” is derived. I am of this community.

I care nothing for the celebration of anything else. I care that you have the right to celebrate Hanukkah, or that newly invented secular holiday for Afro-centric African Americans, Kwanzaa. You are guaranteed that right by the Constitution, which was, itself, guaranteed by Christians.

I know, I know! I can see the “comments box” filling up even as I write this. That’s OK. Just keep it clean.

In the year 2009 one would have to be a disconnected, isolated, idiot to believe that Christmas is not under attack in the western world, especially in the United States.

If you are a regular reader of my scribbling then you already know that I believe that Christians founded America as a Christian country. As a Christian country we are tolerant of other religions. That does not mean that individual American citizens must approve of any particular religion or practice thereof. In a Christian country a citizen is not compelled to be a Christian or a subscriber to any religion, for that matter. That right was guaranteed all Americans in that aforementioned Constitution. And that, Dear Reader, in my humble opinion, is where we mis-stepped. That “right” we celebrate, and hold so dear, has come back to bite us on our collective “Christian butts.”

Any antagonist, worth his salt, uses his opponent’s weakness against him. The opponents of Christianity, no slackers they, have learned to use our weakness of tolerance for other religions, or no religion, against the Christians of America, indeed, in much of the world.

Christian symbols are being relegated to the closets, and basements, of public buildings not to be displayed on the walls of, or grounds of, such public buildings such as, for instance, courthouses.

Put up a Crèche scene, in honor of Christmas, in the town square, and you’d better have a Menorah, a Christmas tree, A Santa Claus, a Kwanzaa something or other, and on and on. The idea is simply to dilute Christmas in a mass of other religious, and secular, celebrations and lessen its influence on the average American. The more timid among us are even afraid to utter that time honored “Merry Christmas.”

No more Christmas break for our public schools. It’s now the “Winter Break” a phrase reminiscent of the pagans of Western Europe. Gone is the Christmas tree in many of those same schools.

Now, I could go on, and on, citing example after example of the battles being waged all across America against Christmas and, collectively, Christians.

Currently, we are in a worldwide war with Islam. Oh, you may argue, we are at war with only the fundamentalist Islamic! I beg to differ. Again, in my opinion -- this is a war between Islam and Christianity. The Muslims know this. Only those of us of the Western Christian countries have deluded ourselves into believing we are in a war with some splinter group of Islam. Hopefully, we will awaken to this fact before it is to late to recover from our mistake and take the battle, for our very existence, to the enemies of Christianity.

Meanwhile, in America, we have our hands full dealing with our own internal enemies. “The War on Christmas” is just a symptom of the greater war on Christianity. Until we recognize that fact, and begin to fight back, we will continue to lose our Christian symbols, our Christian holidays, and eventually our practice of the Christian faith.

I was thinking, as I wrote these words, that there must have been some squinty-eyed old scribe hidden away in a semi-darkened “scriptorium”, somewhere beneath the streets of ancient Rome, scratching out similar words as these while Christians were being gored, and mauled, and torn limb from limb, in the amphitheatres such as The Coliseum above his lowly hovel.

Somehow, every attack against Christians has served to strengthen The Christian Church and insure her survival. One doesn’t have to be a believer to acknowledge the work of a Supreme Being in the dissemination of what we Christians call “The Good News” or “The Gospel.” And yet, down through the ages, many Christians, liked this scribe, feel driven to denounce, in our writings, the evil forces at work against the Christian church.

As one who has studied the scriptures, I know the church will be whittled down until there will be only a remnant of the followers of Christ left upon his return. We witness the “whittling down” process everyday in reports of attacks upon the Christian faith in the news media of the world. And yet – I feel a force, deep within me, urging me to proclaim to all who read these words that no matter the size of the remaining remnant, the Christian Church WILL survive. No matter the odds, the ultimate force for good in this world will continue to feed the hungry, heal the sick, lift up the fallen, and spread the good news of the birth of a savior in a little Middle Eastern town called Bethlehem, some 2,000 years ago. Since that remarkable night, men and women have been unceasingly spreading the news of His arrival and the message He brought of “Peace, Good Will Toward Men.”

Men and women of the Christian faith, in the modern world, may again be relegated to “the catacombs” to practice their Christian faith. But just as their ancient counterparts, they WILL keep the faith. In the face of all odds they will not falter and they will not fail.

And so, from my own little scriptorium, as I write in the wee hours of the morning, please allow me to be among the first to wish you, and your family, a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

J. D. Longstreet