Christmas peace

By | December 22, 2015
Christmas peace message - Candles in the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. 1999.

Christmas peace expressed by the candles in the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. 1999. Image John New

Bethlehem 1999

As the header image to this part of the website shows I visited Bethlehem on a troubled day back in 1999.  As we were leaving the town following a visit to the holy sites it all kicked off, with Palestinian locals stoning the armed Israeli troops adjacent to one of the holy sites of the Jewish faith, The tomb of Rachel the Matriarch  This was all a far cry from the peace and goodwill to all message and the Christian nativity for which the town is famous worldwide and the message proudly carried (then) by a local cafe.

The Peace Cafe, Bethlehem. 1999. Copyright John New

The Peace Cafe, Bethlehem. 1999. Image John New

Regrettably the troubles which were kicking off that day in the Palestinian Territories have not stopped since, spreading and inflaming old wounds and the Middle East is now a cauldron of problems.  That it had been sufficiently quiet in the build up to our visit appears with hindsight to have been a matter of luck as I doubt it will be safe enough for a return visit for many years to come,

Bethlehem steet scene 1999

Bethlehem street scene 1999. Tourists and locals together. Image John New

Back then the souvenir shops were thriving with local men able to get employment on taxi work and all the other touristy normality.  Whilst there were guards about and security was tight there was no immediate threat.  As this report from the International Business Times states, not so in 2015, since October tourism figures are well down with all the attendant problems that brings to a town dependent on tourism for most of its income.

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