A Wall Around Christmas

Posted: December 7, 2012 in Stories from Palestine
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Clair Anastas‘ children came home to find a wall built around three sides of their home. The wall had gone up in one day, surprising and frightening the children as they arrived after school. Towering almost three stories high, the grey concrete panels almost completely encircle the house, leaving only one narrow road connecting this Palestinian family to Bethlehem.

On the other side of that separation fence is Rachel’s Tomb, a sacred place for Jews and Muslims. Yet no access is provided for Palestinians. Visitors from Israel walk a narrow corridor between the concrete panels to access the tomb. They never reach the city of Bethlehem.

Visitors to the Church of the Nativity are also restricted. Many arrive in large tourist buses and are dropped off in Manger Square. Guides advise them not to purchase souvenirs from the local venders and certainly not to wander away from the square into the nearby shopping area. Climbing back into their buses, the tourists are whisked away from the walled city to Israeli-run souvenir shops in Jerusalem.

I cannot help but wonder who is really imprisoned. The Palestinians cannot get out of Bethlehem unless they have a permit and then must return by 7pm each day. Israeli Jews are forbidden to enter Bethlehem and can only reach Rachel’s Tomb through an ugly corridor of concrete. Christian tourists see the city of Jesus’ birth through the windows of a bus.

An olive wood crèche that I purchased in Bethlehem symbolizes life in this occupied city. Like every other crèche, this one has Mary, Joseph, and the baby sheltering under a simple canopy. But preventing the Wise Men from seeing the Holy Family is a separation barrier, a wall.

As we set up our Christmas decorations and sing cherished holiday carols, I ask you to take a moment and pray for the little town of Bethlehem. May those who see the separation barrier as a form of security find ways around their fear. May those who are harassed and humiliated by the apartheid wall find ways around their anger.  May visitors find ways to meet the people who make Bethlehem their home.

The optimistic woodworker who crafted my crèche designed the wall to be removable. I pray that the concrete fence that imprisons both Israelis and Palestinians will someday fall and that all those who seek to visit the holy city of Bethlehem will find nothing blocking their journey.


  1. Joanna says:

    Wow. What an amazing creche. Offering prayers for Bethlehem . . .

  2. Jan Miller says:

    What an awesome creche!

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