It is almost Christmas, so I wanted to wish a happy and merry holiday season to all our readers. This, naturally, comes with a note about the state of the Middle East, specifically the state of Christmas there. In Iraq, Christmas is scarred by violence against Christians. The religious violence has gotten so bad that the Iraqi army has extra patrols in areas with a higher Christian population while military checkpoints protect all the churches in Mosul.
In the West Bank and Israel, there is a fledging war on Christmas. The IDF has banned foreign travelers (going to Bethlehem, kind of an important place for Christians) from traveling on Palestinian buses. While this doesn’t make it impossible for foreign passport-holders to visit Bethlehem, it certainly makes it more difficult. The Ma’an news agency is unaware as to why this policy was implemented.
In Bethlehem, however, Christmas festivities are going full swing. The city has its first rock concert that will last for three days in an attempt to bring more tourists to the city. The line-up will apparently include a Palestinian hip-hop group, a dance troupe, an American, guitar-wielding priest and a German garage band. Although the tourism around Christmas time has grown steadily in recent years, only about 5% of the money stays in Palestine as tourists tend to stay in Israel and make day trips into Palestine.
In Israel, a lobby group has started a veritable campaign against displaying Christian symbols, warning restaurants and hotels that they could lose their designation as kosher if a Christmas tree is present.
At The Ouwet Front, there is a great comparison between the current Lebanese government and the plot of Dickens’ ‘The Christmas Carol.’
Like Scrooge, our politicians tend to regard the poor working folk around them as “idiots” and “fools.” Although Lebanese citizens went in their droves to the polls this summer to elect them into office, our parliamentarians have done very little to respond to their most pressing needs.
If I remember correctly Dickens gave that story a happy ending. Let’s cross our fingers that the Scrooge in Lebanon sees some ghosts.
Photo from The Ouwet Front
Update: In Bethlehem drugs were the top Christmas gift, but no longer.