Bethlehem is a historical and holy place. It’s the birthplace of Jesus and also an ancient city of the Church. This makes it a holy site for Christians around the world. Bethlehem is a popular city during Christmas. At one time, there was peace in Bethlehem, and Arabs and Jews had a good friendship. But now there is an ongoing battle between both Jews and Arabs, and the wonderful time of peace that existed long time ago is gone. Why they ere fighting against each other? When will peace come again?
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Bethlehem was first settled by the Canaanite tribes, naming the city Beit Lahama. They built a temple to the God Lahama on the present Mount of the Nativity. Around 1200 BC, the Philistines had a garrison stationed in Bethlehem because of its strategic location. The city also is significant to Jews, because it is the burial place of the matriarch Rachel and the birthplace of King David. Samuel anointed King David in Bethlehem, and David was a descendant of Ruth and Boaz, who were married in Bethlehem. Following the Israelites’ rule, the Greeks occupied the region until the arrival of the Romans in 160 BC.
Today, Bethlehem has a population of approximately 50,000 people, with the Muslims holding a slight majority. Manger Square is the focus of activities for Christmas celebrations not once, but three times a year. In addition to the traditional Western celebration which begins on December 24, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 6 and the Armenian observance takes place on January 19.
The Church of the Nativity was built in the 4th century by the mother of the Byzantine emperor, Constantine, Helena. She was also responsible for the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The present building, the oldest church in Israel/Palestine, was reconstructed in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian and further repaired by the Crusaders. During the Turkish occupation in 1517, the Franciscans and the Greeks fought over control of the Sanctuaries. Following the War of Independence in 1948, Bethlehem fell under the control of the Jordanians. Then, after the 1967 Six Day War, the Israelis took control of Bethlehem.
According to the International Middle East Media Center, 40 percent of the 32,000 residents of Bethlehem are Christians, and 60 percent are Muslims. The wall (built by Israel) around Bethlehem increased the level of unemployment in the city to 29 percent, as the city’s main income depends on Christian pilgrims and tourism. The Christmas peace candle is being lit everywhere from house to house, starting from December 1st, especially in the houses of Christians.
In Bethlehem, the Greek Orthodox Church has 15 Churches and institutions; Roman Catholics have 25; Protestants have 8 Churches. The Syriac Orthodox Church has one church; and the Ethiopians and the Coptic Christians have one each. There are also several mosques, including the ‘Mosque of Umar’, across the street from the Church of the Nativity. This mosque was erected in 1849. According to Christian tradition, this is where Mary spilled some milk while nursing Jesus when she was hiding from Herod’s soldiers. The milk turned the rocks of the cave a chalk white colour. The rock is believed by some to have healing power and to make nursing easier for women.
As human beings, we want to see reflections of the nonviolent life of Jesus Christ and his words of forgiveness and love. For those disputing people among both Jews and Muslims, please walk with your family and friends, and make new friends with others who seek a more peaceful world. No one religion or person can reach that, especially anyone who allows the killing or torture of another human being.
All men and women are equal. Our first identity is as human being. Why can’t we forget our religious difference? Of course, we can believe in a creator, in the name of God/Creator/Allah/Superpower/Nature, etc. This believe is totally an individual. Everybody has that right to believe or practice in any religion. But no one has that right to make complex for any group or for any religion or to broke peace and harmony. Every person can create love, friendship, amity, pleasure, fellow-feeling, cordiality, and good relations with others, in every group or community. I wanted to know the opinion from different professionals. My question was «How could you connect between the Christmas and peace and what is your wish to establish peace the today’s World during this Christmas?» Now I would like to share the opinions to all of you.
Bernhard Hertlein, is a prominent human rights leader and journalist of Germany. about this Christmas and global peace. When I asked him about this, he shared his feelings. He said, «As a Christian, for me, peace in Palestine is a great wish. It seems so hopeless. But once there was a wonder in Bethlehem, 2,000 years ago, so it might happen once more. If Jews and Arabs can learn to live together without walls, human rights violations and bomb attacks, it will be very good for world peace.»
Ruben Moi, Universitetslektor, Department of Education and Pedagogic of Tromsø University told, «The question is thoughtful and conscious-raising. I wished there was an easy and safe way of sending financial support to work work or institutions working for peace across all communities in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and Israel and Palestine.»
Paul Henrik Kielland, Director of Tromsø Library told, «The Christian Christmas has a peace message. However the Christianity has more a message about your personal and internal peace. First you will have to be in peace with yourself and your family. If this happen, you will also be able to promote a peaceful society. But the Christianity has a violent history, similar to many of the other world religions.»
Eirik Junge Eliasen, editor for Virkelig and a famous actor told, «I wish and hope again this year for peace and diginity for the people of Bethlehem. Of any kind of rase, religion or culture. For the world, I wish that 2012 will be the year of wise and peaceful leadership.»
Our hope is that Bethlehem would once again be a role model for coexistence with a great peace and love between Muslims and Christians as we are same human being. Our great hope for this Christmas in Bethlehem would be no walls and no human rights violations. World peace and happiness will come in the near future. We wish also that all discrimination, war, fighting, torturing, killing would be end in this world. Happy Christmas for all!