Christmas in Bethlehem; a time for Joy and Resilience

The colored strings of lights are now decorating its streets. As you drive past homes you now see Christmas trees proudly placed in front of windows so that all may see. Manger Street is full of traffic at night but no one is complaining for everyone is waiting their turn to receive candy from one of the many Santa Clauses dancing with joy in the street. Everywhere you go you hear Christmas songs played from small radios placed in front of stores or on balconies. In Manger Square, the main Christmas tree shines with bright colors and decorations. The joy is doubled in this holy city this year as both the Palestinian Christians and the Muslim communities celebrate. Christmas and Eid Al-Adha (the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice) have come together this year.

It would have been easy and even justified for Bethlehem and its families not to do anything this Christmas and Eid season and to just sit back and complain about how bad things are. It would have been accepted if people say we can not afford anything because unemployment is at it highest level in years. It would have made sense if people complained that the Separation Wall and barriers (build by the Israeli government and now surrounding the entire city) have cut them of from the world and broken their spirit. It would have been justified to blame the Israeli occupation, its aggressive military, and checkpoints for destroying any hope for any future, but that will not happen in Bethlehem.

Bethlehem has chosen to overcome all obstacles and stand resilient in the face of all challenges. Bethlehem has chosen to stand committed to its historic role and responsibility as the bearer and the keeper of the Christmas spirit. Bethlehem has decided to be the place where hope for peace is born once again.

Land may be stolen for building illegal settlement, walls may be built to imprison entire communities, the body may be broken with acts of violence and torture, but the spirit of Bethlehem will never surrender.

This Christmas season remember Bethlehem … Remember Bethlehem not for the pain and violence it faces but for the joy and resilience it possesses.


16 thoughts on “Christmas in Bethlehem; a time for Joy and Resilience

  1. Rana

    This article really touched me for I prefer to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem than any other place on earth although this year, the Maggis may find a difficulty to access to the grotto of the Nativity. They will face a Seperation Wall and checkpoints all over. It is really a pitty to see the Patriarch walking the way through armed soldiers!
    Despite all the closure, both Christians and Moslems will pray together this year with the hope of ending the Occupation.
    Wish you all a Merry Christams and Happy Eid 🙂

  2. Roberta Mohr

    I celebrated Christmas three times in Palestine during a one month winter stay (Greek Orthodox, Coptic, and?) and since I have not been back in 17 years, I still picture the checkpoints of the first Intifada. I try to see it the way it is now and I just can’t imagine living inside a wall. It is such an inspiration to me to know that the Faith of the Palestinian people can rise above any wall and join hearts and hands with people around the world – including me! Merry Christmas and Happy Eid

  3. Dear Friends: Here in the United States, my people struggled for freedom for since 1615. We resisted by by armaments, and also by marched in vocal and silent marches, while beaten and murdred along the way. It took over 350 years to provide my people the right to vote and , even then, at great costs of innocent blood..Our leaders were not slain by missiles but by dynamite placed under their homes, or by rifles fired in by day or taken from their beds at night and hung from peacan trees. HOLD FAST.!! As Martin said, “The arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.” Oh little town of Bethlemem, you are not alone. Many voices and hearts are bending that arc, and soon it will touch Bethlehem and our planet with one circle of justice, peace, prosperity and joy. for humanity.
    Don Edwards

  4. Bethlehem has become a ‘second home’ to me. My thoughts are with you this Christmas, and Eid. On Wednesday evening 19th December together with other Leicester U. K. friends of Bethlehem we will build a wall around the Nativty crib in our town hall square and hand out ‘Christmas Cards’ with pictures and information about the wall imprisoning you. I hope and pray that you will have a joyful and peaceful Christmas and Eid, and that next year there will be progress towards a just peace.

  5. I hope these words from the Arabic Carol will be true for the holy land
    Laylat al-Milad … yummahah-l-bughdou
    Laylat al-Milad … tuzhiru-l-ardou
    Laylat al-Milad … tudfanou-l-harbou
    Laylat al-Milad … yanbutou-l-hubbou.
    On the night of Christmas … Hatred will vanish
    On the night of Christmas … The Earth blooms
    On the night of Christmas … War is buried
    On the night of Christmas … Love is born

  6. Dror


    Thank you for these inspiring words. As a jewish Israeli citizen whose life is relatively free and easy my heart goes out to the suffering of the palestinian brothers. May God give us the wisdom to find the path to peace, freedom and respect each and every day. I will be with Beth Lehem in Spirit this Christmas.


  7. Sr .Miriam Ward

    Dear Sami,
    Thank you for your beautifully inspiring words and the truly uplifting messages prompted by them. My thoughts and prayers are with you and all my friends in Bethlehem, both Christian and Muslim. Please keep up the spirit of Christmas.

  8. karen

    May Allah, whether of the Christians or the Muslims though truly of both, bless and protect you and precious Beit Lehem this holy season. We shall not forget your suffering in our prayers and look forward to the day when as with Berlin that wall of oppression, fear, and hatred will come tumbling down. Bless you all this Christmas season.

  9. Dear Sami & all at HLT & BBC,

    Eid Mubarak & Milad Majid. I will miss Christmas in Bethlehem. This year I celebrate Eid Al’Adha in Kampala (Uganda) & Christmas in San Francisco, but your voices are all still singing in my heart. May God richly bless you & your work in the New Year.

  10. CJL

    Dear Sami,
    A great many thanks for your moving message which I have passed on to a lot of people.
    I work every day for the long suffering Palestinians.
    All the very best to you.

  11. Sami,

    Your calm spirit of hope and anticipation is a light in this dark world. While you may be physically separated by this deviding wall, your small acts of love and hope can touch the whole world and bring healing.

  12. Pingback: Top blogs, hot posts 12/18/2007 5:15:02 PM «

  13. Karen Cragwall


    My husband is there and I’m looking for anyone who may be streaming the video from the event. Do you have any idea where I might look?

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