Bethlehem unravelled

Let’s look at what happened to Bethlehem since Israel handed control over to the Palestinian Authority;

Yasser Arafat defied the Christian tradition in Bethlehem, which had been respected and upheld under Israeli authority, by appointing a Muslim governor and engineered a Muslim takeover of the city council. He then put his stamp on this town by converting the Greek Orthodox monastery, next to the Church of the Nativity, into his official Bethlehem residence.

The Church of the Nativity was desecrated and vandalized by Palestinian Muslim gunmen (terrorists) who kept priests and nuns as hostages between April 2 and May 10 in 2002.

At great risk to his life, Pastor Naim Khoury, of the Bethlehem Baptist Church, exposed the developing threats to Christians within the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority. “People are always telling Christians to convert to Islam.”

His ministry is based on love and non-violence. He is also a strong advocate for Zionism based on God’s land covenant with Israel through Abraham.

Because of his views, his church has been bombed fourteen times, and he has been shot three times. He has been threatened by the Palestinian Authority to close the doors of his church which they consider as “illegitimate.”

This brave Christian priest needs and deserves the active support of church leaders worldwide. Instead, they turn their back on him, selecting only Israel for their wrath, ignoring the human rights crimes of the Palestinian leadership whom they openly support. How twisted is that?

Elias Freij, the Christian mayor of Bethlehem at the time of the Oslo Accords in 1993, warned Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, to maintain control over his town. “Bethlehem will become a town of churches devoid of Christians if you transfer control to the Palestinian Authority.”

Israel caved in to international pressure, handed over Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority and, for the middle class Christian residents, their lives became threatened. They fled, and the mayor’s warning became the current Christian nightmare in Bethlehem.

Palestinian terrorists held priests and nuns hostages as they desecrated the Church of the Nativity.

The St. James’s Church malicious Christmas pantomime failed to mention the fear that pervades the shrinking Christian population. The fear of attack by Muslim Palestinians is personified by Joseph Canawati whose sister, her husband, and three children have fled to America.
“I want to leave but nobody will buy my business. I feel trapped. We are isolated,” he complained. But the Piccadilly church leaders turn a deaf ear to his plea.

What of the fear of death at the hands of non-Christian Palestinians in Bethlehem, such as that felt by Jeriez Moussa Amaro whose two sisters, Rada aged 24 and Dunya aged 18, were gunned down by Palestinian Muslims in their own home. Their crime was to be young, attractive, and wear Western clothes and no veil.

Sami Qumsieh, the general manager of “The Nativity,” the only Christian TV station in Bethlehem, has received death threats and visits from armed gunmen. He is now ready to leave. “As Christians, we have no future here.”

Fourteen Islamic Jihad terrorists were arrested in Bethlehem by Israeli security forces just before Christmas 2013. They had blown up an Israeli bus in Bat Yam. During the arrest raid, the forces discovered a 20kg bomb in the Bethlehem homes of one of the Palestinian terrorists. They were planning a major bombing attack in Tel Aviv.

How sad it is that this church, the British Methodist Church, and many other Christian leaders are blindsided in their pursuit of a perceived Jewish enemy that they fail to come to the rescue of, or campaign for, protest, make expensive exhibitions, for their co-religionists, persecuted by those who they actively and expensively support.

Is it any wonder that the Christian population in Bethlehem fell from 85% under Israeli rule down to less than 20%, and falling, under the Palestinian Authority?

The church exhibition in the heart of London is a perverted, untruthful, and twisted rendering that says more about a Christianity in the cause of evil than a Christianity in search of love, peace, and truth. It says more about the lost soul of St.James’s Church and its leaders than it does about Israel.

Finally, one significant question. Why is it I, an Israeli Jew, who is outspoken in defense of suffering Christians under a brutal Palestinian leadership, and not British church leaders?

Author of the public advocacy book ‘Israel Reclaiming the

About the Author
Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. He is also the author of ‘Fighting Hamas, BDS and Anti-Semitism and the new best-seller 'BDS for IDIOTS - a seriously funny humiliation of BDS activists.'
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