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Hark the Wall Street Journal sings,
Jews are doing terrible things.
Terrorism on earth gets mercy mild,
Islamist and Christian are reconciled.
Let all ye Arab Palestinians rise,
Blow the Jews right to the skies.
With the Hell-born host proclaim,
Israel is ruining Bethlehem
(to the tune of Va­ter­land, in dein­em Gau­en from Fest­ge­sang an die Künstler, by Felix Mendelsohn. AKA "Hark the Herald angels sing.")*

Each year for the past several years has seen a renewal of an ancient and not too praiseworthy Christian custom, which we had all hoped was buried forever - Christmas as the time for spreading anti-Jewish racism. In the bad old days, Christmas was a time of good will to all men, except Jews. Pogromists screamed "HEP HEP" (Hierosylma Est Perdita - Jerusalem is lost). The last Christmas pogrom took place in Warsaw in 1881. Now the new Pogromists are shouting "Bethlehem Est Perdita" instead - BEP BEP!!

Each year, the media are full of stories about the declining and persecuted Christian minority of the West Bank and Gaza, a situation which they almost invariably blame on the Israelis. This year, Wall Street Journal, normally a bastion of neoconservative anti-terrorism, leads the Christmas Pogromists, publishing an article by Kevin Woodward, "The Plight of Bethlehem: Why Christians can't visit the holy shrines in Jerusalem." (source: opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110011037). Most of the article is untrue untrue, including the headline, but Jew-bashing at Christmas sells newspapers, so what does it matter to Wall Street Journal or Opinion Journal?

Woodward admits that of course, he hasn't actually been in Bethlehem in seven years: "When last I was in Bethlehem, in 2000," he writes. But that doesn't prevent him from lamenting that Bethlehem is in the hands of the evil and greedy Jews. He tells his readers:

Israel cannot afford to lose the Palestinian Christians: They have long represented a moderating force. A century ago, they accounted for 25% or more of the Holy Land population. Today, they represent less than 1.5%. Since 2000, Bethlehem alone has lost 10% of its Christian population.

Palestinian Christians regard their ancestors as the first Christians, and no doubt some of them were. They call themselves the "living stones" of Biblical Christianity, preserving ancient communities and traditions in the midst of repeated armed conflicts. They deserve to keep their land and work for "peace on earth, goodwill toward men."

Israel already lost the Christians, if we ever had them. Too bad that the living stones are throwing actual stones and hand grenades at the living Jews, some of whom are thereafter no longer among the living. Too bad that instead of working for peace on earth, Palestinian Arab Christian leaders announce that Israel must not be a Jewish state, and support "resistance" - blowing people up.

But the plight of the Christians Arab Palestinians is not the fault of the evil and greedy Zionists in any way, shape or form. The decline in the relative population of Christians occurred for several reasons. Everywhere in the Middle East, Christian birthrates have been going down while Muslim rates of population increase soared due to prosperity, better sanitation and health. A hundred years ago and earlier, the survival of any baby, Christian or Arab, born in Bethlehem was something of a minor miracle. About 1 in 3 died by age one year. Very probably less than 50% survived to adulthood. Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, this carnage was reduced to reasonable proportions. It is no accident that infant mortality in Gaza and the West Bank is lower than that in neighboring Arab countries. In the Holy Land, the miracle of infant survival was propagated in large part by the Zionist conspiracy spearheaded by the Hadassah medical organization and after 1967, by the evil Zionist occupation, which gave and gives free medical care and prenatal clinics to all comers. This differentially benefited the Muslims, because of their continued high birthrate. Additionally, Christians who were better educated and more mobile, found it easier to emigrate from the relative poverty of the Holy Land to more lucrative, if less holy, environs. It is no secret either, that life among Muslims is no picnic for Christians (see for example, Turkey and its Christians) It was not Israelis who killed the owner of a Christian book seller in Gaza this year, causing a rather muted celebration of Christmas in Gaza. That story is all but forgotten in Western media.

The grim reality of Bethlehem, the security precautions and the fence are all due solely to the Palestinian Authority and the rise of the Intifada and no other cause. From 1967 until Bethlehem was put under Palestinian rule, the Christian and Muslim population prospered. Christian holy places were refurbished, and record numbers of tourists thronged to Bethlehem. A unique and wonderful ecumenical spirit was spread by the yearly world-wide broadcast of the Midnight Mass from Bethlehem, through the services of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

But even now, the situation in Bethlehem is not as Kevin Woodward claims, and his subhead;" Why Christians can't visit the holy shrines in Jerusalem" is both illogical and false. Bethlehem is not in Jerusalem, and by all accounts, thanks to lowered terrorist threats and relaxed Israeli security, more tourists are visiting the Holy Land for Christmas than have been coming here for many years. If we can't get the truth from Opinion Journal, we can get it nonetheless from less likely places: Al Jazeera and the BBC for example.

Al Jazeera: A recent lull in violence and renewed Middle East peace talks have bolstered tourist and pilgrim numbers, with the Palestinian town in the West Bank enjoying its busiest Christmas since the second intifada began seven years ago....

Tourism workers handed out sweets and flowers to pilgrims, and smiling Israeli soldiers posed for pictures with travellers.

Bethlehem's governor, Saleh Tamari, said all of the town's 5,000 hotel rooms were booked.

Priests and monks, tourists, Palestinian families and Palestinian police mingled in Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity, the site where tradition holds Jesus was born.

Throughout the evening, choirs and orchestras performed hymns and Christmas carols in a multitude of languages.

Jacques Aman, whose wooden handicrafts shop offered crosses, rosaries and nativity scenes, said "this year is much better than the last seven
years for tourism".

"The atmosphere is better in general. There is relative calm, from the security standpoint."

BBC: Better times return to Bethlehem:

Hundreds of thousands more visitors have come to Bethlehem

As a flock of tourists strode up to the entrance of the Church of the Nativity - the reputed site of Jesus Christ's birth - a Palestinian tour guide moved in for the hard sell.

"Do you need a guide?" asked Adil Dweib as the visitors marched by him without saying a word.

In previous years, Mr Dweib would have pursued the group, but this time he shrugged his shoulders and rejoined a couple of colleagues leaning against a wall.

The work of church leaders across the world has helped in selling Bethlehem as a safe city for pilgrimage

"This year is like 2000," says Mr Dweib - a slight exaggeration perhaps, as the millennium year was a bumper time for tourism in Bethlehem.

"Business is good and next year there will be hopefully even more tourists," he adds.

Community and business leaders, shopkeepers and tour guides, all tell you the same thing: the economy is getting better in this Christian pilgrimage centre in the rolling West Bank hills.

According to the Bethlehem municipality, 625,000 visitors came to the town this year with a further 70,000 expected during the Christmas period. This is four times as many tourists as visited during December 2005.

"The work of church leaders across the world, along with travel agents and the Palestinian tourism ministry, has all helped in selling Bethlehem as a safe city for pilgrimage," says the city's Mayor Victor Batarseh.

Christian pilgrims and tourists flock to Bethlehem

By Ana and Angela Barrios, Special to The Manila Times

Israel and holy sites in the West Bank are experiencing a renewed surge of tourism this year—a lot them Christian pilgrims braving the terrorist threats that always hover above Bethlehem.

Some of the pilgrims are OFWs from Europe and the Arab countries.

Bethlehem is where the Church of Nativity is located and the place where, Christians believe, Jesus was born, prepared for the Christmas influx. The town’s mayor, Victor Batarseh, expects the total of tourists this Christmas to reach 65,000. This is approximately four times the number that came in Christmas 2005.

On Tuesday (December 18) in Jerusalem, the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism Shaul Tzemach, said 500,000 Christian tourists have so far in 2007 made a pilgrimage to Israel and 340,000 tourists traveled to Bethlehem. Israel proudly claims that since its creation, Israel has provided freedom of religion for Christians, as well as for Muslims, Jews and other faiths that have holy sites in the country.

For the 2007 Christmas season, the Ministry of Tourism along with the Israeli Police and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have coordinated their efforts with the Palestinian Ministry for Tourism as well as Palestinian organizations in the private sector to ensure the safe passage of Christian pilgrims from Jerusalem into Bethlehem.

Israel Ministry of Tourism staff will man the Rachel crossing into Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, twenty-four hours a day with staff from the IDF’s District Coordination Office (DCO) in the Palestinian Territories. The Ministry will also provide a bus shuttle every 30 minutes from the Mar Elias Monastery just south of Jerusalem to the Church of the Nativity on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Israeli Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said, “Tourism cooperation is in the joint economic interests of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The many pilgrims who are currently visiting create a bridge for cooperation, understanding and peace between the peoples. We will work together in order to assure full freedom of religion.”

Lt. Col. Kamil Wahabee of the IDF’s DCO Unit said a number of restrictions inside the West Bank have been eased for the holiday season. He also said that the government has lifted a general prohibition on Israeli civilians visiting the West Bank without a permit; a gesture intended to allow Israeli Arabs to visit family in the West Bank over the holiday season.

Thousands of entry permits have also been granted to Palestinian Christians wishing to visit family in Israel over Christmas. Eight thousand permits have been granted to residents of Bethlehem alone, with four hundred permits granted to its Muslim residents. Hundreds of permits were distributed in other cities for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, or “Sacrifice Feast,” which was celebrated on Wednesday (December 19). Five hundred permits were requested by Christians from Gaza to visit Israel, Bethlehem and the West Bank, all of which were granted.

Aharonovitch and Nazareth Mayor Ramez Jaraisy will host the traditional reception for leaders of Israel’s Christian communities on Christmas Eve at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Local Jewish, Christian and Muslim mayors will also be in attendance.

Former British Prime Minister and International Quartet envoy, Tony Blair, spent the night in Bethlehem on Tuesday (December 11) to help revive tourism in the town and demonstrate that it is a secure travel destination. Said Blair, “I’m trying to illustrate that … It [Bethlehem] is a safe and good place to come and visit.”

In addition to al the Christmas preparations, the Jerusalem municipality distributed Christmas trees on December 20, as it does every year.

This Christmas will also witness the largest event in Manger Square, in Bethlehem, since 1999. A choir comprised of three church groups from the US, together with Israeli and Palestinian musicians, will give performances in Amman, Jordan; Nazareth; and Jerusalem. The 160-voice choir will then give a climactic performance on Christmas Eve in Manger Square. One of the organizers of the tour, Rev. Sam Morris, senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Columbus, Mississippi said, “While the music is the traditional Christmas music of Handel and John Rutter, the presence of the singers, orchestra and soloists transcends the differences existing among peoples of the world, and unites us in friendship and hope in this deeply symbolic season.”

Unfortunately, terrorist activity in the Bethlehem district is still a serious problem, accounting for the IDF’s ongoing operations in the area. In 2007 alone, there have been numerous incidents involving terrorists in the Bethlehem region.

On October 11, the IDF detained Issa Muhammad Jawarish in Bethlehem, a high-ranking Hamas member active in the West Bank.

On September 9, Israeli security forces detained a high-ranking operative of the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group and his collaborator in the village of Al-Shawawra, east of Bethlehem. The two belonged to a terrorist squad active in the area.

On August 8, an improvised explosive device was detonated against IDF forces operating in Beit Omar, a village near Bethlehem, and two Molotov cocktails were thrown at them.

On January 4, Israeli security forces detained Tawfiq Abu Zaid in Bethlehem. During 2006, Abu Zaid had been involved in many shooting attacks directed against IDF forces and enlisted operatives to carry out shooting attacks and plant explosive devices for ambushes against IDF soldiers. He also manufactured weapons, specializing in explosive devices.

Manila Times got the story right: security precautions and the fall in tourism were due to Arab Palestinian terrorism. Christian Churches, Israelis and Palestinians worked hard to help Bethlehem recover its tourist industry, but grinches like Kevin Woodward in the Opinion Journal were so eager to dump on Israel that they didn't mind dumping on Bethlehem and the Palestinians too and ruining the party for them.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year even to Kevin Woodward.

Ami Isseroff

* Appropriately enough, the music was composed to celebrate the invention and the inventor of the printing press. Guess what people Felix Mendelsohn belonged to?

Original content is Copyright by the author 2007. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000470.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 6 Comments

Israel,the Jewish state, is a wonderful country full of irony and paradox. She is a country squeezed by her great ally, the U.S.A. to make concessions that compromise her security and then is accused by American academics of controlling U.S. policy. Israel,the Jewish state, is a country that wages war by telling her opponents where she plans to strike and then finds herself charged, by international aid societies, with disproportionate violence. Israel, the Jewish state, is a country where faked newsreel footage causes universal outrage against her brutal actions. Israel,the Jewish state, is a country that is invited by her best friend to an international conference to talk about her future and then, in deference to those who openly hate her guts, is made to use a side door entrance. Israel,the Jewish state, is a country that has citizens of every race and creed and is called apartheid by countries that will not allow a single Jew to dwell in their precincts. Israel,the Jewish state, is a country so little respected that the president of prestigious Columbia University, who would never invite a white supremecist to speak, thinks nothing of asking the world's most notorious anti-Semite to have the honor of its podium. Israel,the Jewish state, is a country where the army is accused of "racism" because its soldiers don't try to rape their female prisoners. Israel,the Jewish state, is a country whose self-defensive activities are called crimes against humanity.Israel,the Jewish state, is a country where no one has to worry anymore about anti-Semitism because Jew-hatred, along with the holocaust,has finally disappeared (except among Muslims who get to hate Jews by birthright). Israel, the Jewish state,is free now to persecute instead of being persecuted because the ugly, blood-lusting,evil Jew has transmogrified into the ugly, war-mongering, usurping Zionist and his pro-Israel henchmen. Israel, the Jewish state, is a country subject to the most vile perversions of logic and reason, where facts exist only to be distorted, and reality is a projection of her enemies' meanest desires. Welcome to the Jewish state of Israel, Disneyland of the Utopian imagination where the do-gooders and oppressed of the world can discover their ultimate house of horrors. Who says we no longer live in the Middle Ages?

Mitzi Alvin, Monday, December 31st

Ami, please accept my compliments on your effort to get things straight. I am a Canadian born Israeli leftist I came in 1947 to join the fledgling Israeli airforce , remained, raised my family here and am a bit dismayed that my grandchildren may also have to fight for the privilege of having a homeland of their own. True , not all has turned out as I wanted but I live in the lower galilee surrounded by arab villages in relative peace so it is possible. We have a mutual need of each other, they need us for places to work and we need them for working hands.All this rhetoric about apartheid is bellywash, How I would like them to come to our kibbutz museum and see the arab children and ours playing together and geting to know each other. The fact is that so many arab children are getting a good education (as are ours) makes me happy and only when I see pictures of the ranting raging mobs shouting DOWN WITH THE JEwAZS, AND DEATH TO ISRAEL do I get discouraged and think are these the people we can make peace with????Ami , don't you get discouraged and keep up the good work, someone has to hold the flag high- shalom

Batya Lam, Sunday, December 30th

Aaahh. This Lisa is a nobody, Ami. Don't waste your time on her. She has a closed mind - it's been totally brainwashed by the Left like Lenin's 'Useful Idiots."

Chaya, Sunday, December 30th


How sad that bigotry should blind you to the truth about what is happening. to Christians in the Holy Land and the Palestinian Authority areas

The best people to ask are the Christian Arabs and Palestinians themselves, not Woodward.

Freedom of religion in the Holy Land has only become possible under Israeli control

Prior to that holy places were desecrated or destroyed, as the Palestinians still do whenever any holy Jewish site is handed over to their control

Your reference to the Israel Defence force as the " - a organization that is a roadblock to peace."

shows just how out of touch you are

the IDF has been forced to be on 24/7 alert for the past 60 years since the Palestinians refused to take up their option of their own state alongside Israel.

All it would take to move forward to peace is for the Arabs and Palestinians, and in particular Hamas and Fatah, to reject terror and accept the reality of Israel

But they prefer the option of terror and suicide bombing and Kassam rockets launched into Israeli towns

As for your Apartheid allegation, no country in the world deserves that label less than Israel

With her population of Jews Arabs, Druse. Bedouins, Bahai, and many other religions coexisting

As for what happens in the territories, that is a matter for the Palestinians themselves,

They have promoted their own version of Apartheid by making Gaza and many other areas they control Jew free!

And over the years their uncaring Arab neighbours have not come to their aid with any kind of moral or financial aid

It is always important to get your facts straight and the context and history right before rushing into print
Interestingly you sign off with a message to "everyone in the holy land be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian!"
Strange message since you accuse Israel of being apartheid, yet you are clearly aware that is an untrue allegation

Joy Wolfe, Sunday, December 30th

Lisa (lisa_goodwell@yahoo.com) wrote:
"Woodward speaks the truth that many Americans do not know."

Presumably, Lisa was in Bethlehem before 1993 with the PA took over, and is in a position to tell us positively that the plight of the Christians there is due to occupation, and not the Intifadeh.

Lisa wrote:
"That peace will come to Israel once it ends apartheid in the occupied territories."

That is not what Woodward wrote at all, but in any case it is a very doubtful proposition. Woodward's article simply claimed that the situation in Bethlehem is due to Israeli occupation. Presumably, the situation in Bethlehem should be worse now than it was in 1992, when Israel fully occupied Bethlehem, but that is not the case.

Lisa wrote:
"His article is NOT blind Israel bashing "
Nobody said it was blind. Presumably, the man does it with his eyes open.
Lisa wrote:
"and supports the position of the Israel left "
I am the Israeli left. He does NOT support my position, as I do not believe in lying.

LISA wrote:
"many of whom support the peaceniks who refuse to serve in the Israel Occupation Army - a organization that is a roadblock to peace."
There are a few hundred people who refuse to serve in the Israeli army on those grounds - not "many." The Israeli army is a 'roadblock' to Israel being overrun by the Syrians, Palestinian Arabs and Hezbollah. Presumably, you believe that would be "peace."

Most of the leftists in Israel - the real leftists, support the Israeli army, because we understand that without the Israeli army there is no Israel and no Jewish leftists.

But all that rhetoric you wrote in any case has no bearing on the facts in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was in better shape before 1992 than in 1999 when I last visited, and it was in better shape in 1999 than it has been since. Therefore what Woodward wrote is not true. Moreover, all those who reported facts agreed that this was the best year Bethlehem has had since the 2000 centennial. Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and relative quiet made possible full hotels and a reasonable holiday atmosphere.

Your comment, like Woodward's article, is despicable and mendacious Israel bashing.

Ami Isseroff, Sunday, December 30th

Woodward speaks the truth that many Americans do not know. That peace will come to Israel once it ends apartheid in the occupied territories. I think it was the great Jewish scholars that said to judge oneself before judging others.

His article is NOT blind Israel bashing and supports the position of the Israel left many of whom support the peaceniks who refuse to serve in the Israel Occupation Army - a organization that is a roadblock to peace.

Amen, and best holidays to everyone in the holy land be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian!

Lisa, Saturday, December 29th

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