ROME – It is revered by different Christian sects and draws more than a million visitors to the Holy Land every year, making it the biggest tourist attraction in the Palestinian territories.
Every December, a package from the Holy Land arrives on Hikmat Dandan’s doorstep. Inside are 65 hand-drawn Christmas cards in different shapes, sizes and colours.
BETHLEHEM, West Bank – An Italian team has completed restoration of Crusader-era mosaics in the Church of the Nativity, but the mosaics will only be unveiled publicly after work on lighting, electricity and the fire alarm system is also finished.
From the very beginnings of Christianity the grotto where Jesus was born has been revered as one of the most sacred places in the world. Today it is designated a World Heritage Site and Roman Catholics from all over the world gather here every Christmas Eve for Midnight Mass.
BETHLEHEM, West Bank - Though the Christmas tree was lit in Nativity Square in the traditional ceremony, and some traditional pre-Christmas parades have taken place, the Christmas spirit this year in Bethlehem has been dampened by the political situation which, since October, has taken the lives of almost 100 Palestinians and 22 Israelis.
For centuries pilgrims have arrived in Bethlehem at Christmas to celebrate where Christ was born at the site of the present-day Church of the Nativity. But this will be a December of modest crowds and muted celebrations due to an autumn of violence in the West Bank.
Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year C) Dec. 20 (Micah 5:2-5a; Psalm 80; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45)
In biblical times Bethlehem was probably not a very impressive “city” — it was more like a small town. There was nothing visible that would hint at future greatness. Its glory was that it was the birthplace of its most illustrious son — David, the king of Israel. The city of David, as it came to be known, had great things in store for it.
At some point, this Christmas season most people will almost certainly receive a Christmas card, or e-card, depicting a plump, blue-eyed baby Jesus lying in an impoverished crib lined with hay and surrounded by friendly farm animals. There might be a barn in the background, beneath an enormous star and framed by pine trees with snow bending the branches. If it's the thought that counts, somebody hasn't thought this through.
“Let’s go to Bethlehem,” we students agreed with one another. We were enrolled in a summer course in Jerusalem, through a program called Bat Kol which the Sisters of Sion generously invited me to attend. The final free Saturday was approaching. We wanted to make the trip before returning home.
BETHLEHEM - Hospitals are mostly in the habit of receiving patients. In Bethlehem, Holy Family Hospital also receives pilgrims.
I met a man in Bethlehem who has dedicated his life to compassion, justice, enlightenment and hope. He respects God and tradition and loves the poorest and the weakest among human beings. And he refuses to go to Church.
BETHLEHEM - Regina Mousalam is adamant that Palestinians are not leaving and will not leave the country of their birth, the land of their ancestry and the culture that is their pride. Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and other Christian Palestinian towns and villages were built around their churches. The homes Palestinian Christians live in, the streets they walk and the extended families surrounding them keep Palestinians wedded to this hard, dry land.
BETHLEHEM - Bethlehem’s Christians and Muslims know where to turn for help. If they fall ill, there’s Holy Family Hospital sponsored by the Knights of Malta. An abandoned child or a battered woman will find care at La Creche, sponsored by the Sisters of Charity. The best schools include the Frere School, sponsored by the De La Salle Brothers, the Rosary Sisters School, the Terra Sancta Girls High School, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and the Salesian Boys Industrial High School. For university the choice is Palestine’s first university, the De La Salle Brothers’ Bethlehem University.
BETHLEHEM - The Vatican has been increasingly concerned about the possibility the Middle East will become a kind of Disneyland for Christians, full of interesting Christian history, architecture and archeology that will attract tourists, but virtually empty of Christians.
TORONTO - Under the headline “A slap in the face,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Frank Dimant has used his organization’s newspaper to condemn Pope Francis’ recent visit to the Holy Land.