Oh Bethlehem, Little Town of Bethlehem

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The Israeli Tourism Ministry getting ready to welcome the tens of thousands of visitors expected to arrive for the Christmas season.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin: “Israel invites the faithful from all religions to pray, worship and visit all the holy sites in Israel, in freedom and security.  I am proud to take this opportunity and announce that, this year, we have broken all previous records for incoming tourism and are set to end 2017 with a record 3.5 million tourists, half a million more than the previous record.”

Bethlehem is usually in the news this time of year.

From 3:00 pm on December 24, to 3:00 am on Christmas Day, the Ministry of Tourism will offer free shuttle transportation, helping pilgrims travelling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, with buses leaving every 30 minutes on the hour.



On a December visit last year, our group met with the Sister in charge of the Christian Orphanage in Bethlehem. She spoke carefully. Every word measured, not to say something which could be misreported by media. She implored us to be careful what we would report.

Bethlehem Christian Orphanage room with row of little beds

The nuns efforts to give these abandoned children a warm place to live, under very difficult circumstances, was impressive. The loving care evident.

Baby on floor seat by Christmas tree in Bethlehem Orphan water marked

However, I wondered where this little fellow would be in future. I wonder where he is today?

I also wondered how many shekels went to build the Bank of Palestine in Bethlehem.

Bethlehem Bank of Palestine building

For a “State” with no currency, it is truly impressive. Reminded me of a certain museum, with nothing to exhibit.

I have been thinking about Bethlehem a lot the past week. Wondering where was the international uproar, after Trump spoke and Christmas celebrations were toned down?

Finally, something in the Jerusalem Post, “Palestinian Grinches Stealing Christmas  

More than Grinch, the financial hardship of people in Bethlehem, losing out on the biggest tourist time of the year, this photo from last year constantly in mind.

In Bethlehem bus station man asks tourists to buy menorah or creche before Christmas holiday After a fascinating visit to Bethlehem, this salesman approached us in the bus parking lot. I loved how he had his options covered, a creche in his right hand and a menorah in left.

Bethlehem main square before Christmas 2016

Business was reported slow last year. It must be even slower so far this year, with calls for protests before Christmas in Bethlehem, using Jerusalem as the latest excuse.

Bethlehem Christmas tree from December 2016

So I am posting a photo of the official Bethlehem tree from 2016 for 2017.

How many Christians will there be this year with Israel again supplying free transportation?

How many will care about the sad state of the little town of Bethlehem, where symbols and signs of Christmas are disappearing along with its Christian residents?

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I lived in the United States, Canada and Australia before moving to Israel in the midst of the Second Lebanon War. For the last ten years, walking the streets of Jerusalem, the scenes I saw every day did not resemble the ones familiar in the Western media. Now I try to share those positive images with the world, what is really happening in Jerusalem, Israel, The Real Jerusalem Streets