Guest / Limited Access /

Bethlehem prepares itself for another gloomy Christmas. The town, usually buzzing with pre-Christmas activity, is now dead. An Associated Press story gives the picture: "George Juha sat in his empty Manger Square restaurant, flipping through a picture album, reminiscing about the good old days when hundreds of tourists, diplomats, and famous personalities lunched there. 'We've been closed most of the year. There are no tourists, so business is very slow,'' said Juha, 44, looking at 5-year-old pictures of U.S. congressmen enjoying a traditional Middle Eastern meal at his restaurant.

Bethlehem's mayor announced this week that Christmas celebrations would be limited to religious ceremonies. "I know that Bethlehem has a special place in the Christians' hearts, being the cradle of Jesus Christ, and for that I encourage all our Christian brethren to show their love for Bethlehem this Christmas by taking serious steps to save the city and its people, as it's in dire need for help preserve its prestigious place and its importance as a pilgrimage destination and a city of peace," the mayor said.

In addition, Israel barred Yasser Arafat from attending any celebrations in the city after a Christian delegation invited him. Arafat typically attends the Christmas ceremonies, but hasn't for three years while he has been confined to his Ramallah compound.

Christians have been fleeing the city at a rate of 1,000 per year, Reuters reports. "If this continues, our churches will be more like museums than living houses of prayer," said Father Amjad Sabbara, a senior Roman Catholic cleric, after celebrating mass before a sparse congregation of mostly gray-haired worshipers." Christians number only 50,000 in the West Bank and Gaza, less than half ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Tags:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueWho Awaits the Messiah Most? Muslims
Subscriber Access Only
Who Awaits the Messiah Most? Muslims
Islam and Christianity share Second Coming hopes. Can this be a bridge?
TrendingThe Story Behind Trump’s Controversial Prayer Partner
The Story Behind Trump’s Controversial Prayer Partner
What Paula White’s Washington moment implies for the prosperity gospel’s future.
Editor's PickThe Church’s Integrity in the Trump Years
The Church’s Integrity in the Trump Years
It begins by recognizing the name above every name.
Christianity Today
Bethlehem Prepares for Dour Christmas
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

December 2003

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.