Tourists and local Christians gather in birthplace of Jesus to mark Christmas Eve despite hurdles of the occupation.Thousands of pilgrims and tourists from around the world together with local Christians have gathered in the biblical town of Bethlehem in the occupied Palestinian territory of West Bank to celebrate Christmas Eve in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
Security was tight in Bethlehem on Saturday after recent deadly attacks on Christian targets in neighbouring Egypt and Jordan by armed fighters.
Yet the faithful braved the chilly weather outside the town’s Manger Square as traditional Christmas songs like Jingle Bells played in Arabic over loudspeakers and scout groups paraded with bagpipes and sang carols.Read More
“Behold: the Lord is at the gates!” (cf. James 5:9).
Christmas is the entrance of the Son of God into the world: Christ enters the world, he comes among his people. And before Him all is an opening and a closing of doors. In the time following the Jubilee of Mercy, we can interpret Christmas as the door that God keeps open to go out to man and invite him to enter into communion with him.
At Christmas, first of all, the Gate of God is opened, from which comes the Son, Emmanuel, God-with-us. The heavens open: from the birth up to the baptism of the Lord all is an opening of the gates of heaven from which the angels go out and return, announcing and preparing the coming of the Spirit. Most of all, the human and divine heart of the Son open up: “For this reason, entering the world, Christ says: “Sacrifice and offering you have not desired, instead you have prepared a body for me; you have not delighted in holocausts nor in sin offerings. Then I said: Behold, I come – as it is written of me in the scroll of the book – to do your will, O God” (Heb 10: 5-7). Christ opens wide the doors of his life as much as to say “I am the gate: if one enters through me, he will be saved; and will enter and go out and find pasture.” (Jn 10:9). He is in person “the Lord’s own gate, through it the righteous enter” (Ps 118:20).
At the open Gate of God, correspond open doors for men and women willing to let Him enter: the heart of Mary and Joseph, with a “yes” without hesitation; the doors of the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah; the generous journey of the shepherds and the Magi, of Simeon and Anna…Read More
Hand Carved in Bethlehem, Israel?
by Josh Ruebner, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
This holiday season Neiman Marcus stores across the United States are selling olive wood nativity scenes made by Palestinians in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. That’s great, but there is one big caveat: Neiman Marcus is purposely misrepresenting the origin of these products by labeling them as “Hand Carved in Bethlehem, Israel.”
US Customs regulations are clear: products made in the West Bank must be labeled as such. It is a violation of these regulations to mislabel them as being “Made in Israel” and a company which tries to pass off goods made in the West Bank as being “Made in Israel” can be fined a percentage of the imported values.Read More
At the Security Council, a rare international consensus was achieved. It was clearly and unequivocally resolved that the establishment of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is an impermissible act, contrary to International Law, and that the State of Israel must cease immediately and completely construction and expansion of settlements. The resolution was adopted by the votes of all Security Council Members, represent all parts of the Earth, First World and Third World alike – Europe and North America, South America and Africa and Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand (which itself shared in presenting the resolution to the vote). There was not a single country in the entire world to speak in favor of continuing the settlement enterprise and theft of Palestinian lands.Read More
As Christians worldwide await the arrival of the Holy Child in late December, children in Bethlehem have been playing a particular role in preparation of the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) Christmas message this year.
Through a collaboration between WCC Communication and Bishop Dr Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Palestinian children from a variety of schools in Bethlehem were invited to share drawings, illustrating their own perspectives on the Christmas story.
The project formed part of a deepened collaboration for just peace in the Holy Land, and the contributions display a variety of illustrations of what this means for children in Palestine today.
Donna Baranski-Walker, Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance, writes…
I have good news. In my last message, I asked you to be ready to send a message to Congress regarding the Palestinian village of Umm Al Kheir. I am heartened to report that the legal strategy of Umm Al Kheir’s attorney, Ghiath Nasser esq., was successful.
On Monday, Dec. 19th, the High Court of Israel issued an injunction against the demolition of homes and structures within the boundaries of the master plan that the villagers submitted to the Israeli Civil Administration. This means that until the villagers’ petition is heard by the court (months or years from now) their homes should be safe from demolition bulldozers!Read More
By Isma’il Kushkush, Associated Press
BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Dec 21, 2016, 1:17 AM ET
Christmas is approaching and pilgrims and tourists have begun to arrive, crowding the souvenir shops that line the narrow streets and alleys of Bethlehem, the biblical town revered as Jesus’ birthplace.
But when visitors choose to take a piece of the Holy Land back home with them, they had better check the labels. Many souvenirs — including the West Bank town’s trademark rosary beads — are imported from abroad, mainly China.
A small number of souvenir shops are now trying to fight the trend, stocking their shelves almost exclusively with locally made products. Shopkeepers say that while their wares may be more expensive, the quality is much better and they give an important boost to the struggling economyRead More
The Latin Vicariate also announces the cancellation of all Christmas celebrations in solidarity with the Jordanian family that has lost its martyred sons at the hands of heinous criminals and terrorism.
The Latin Vicariate in Amman, December 18, 2016
JORDAN – Karak terror assault on Sunday December, 18, 2016, carried by a Jordanian internal terrorist cell, targeted both Jordanians and Foreigners. The attack claimed the lives of ten people and left several people seriously wounded. It aimed to undermine national unity and social cohesion and will have inevitable repercussions on the tourism industry, one of the main resources of the national economy. Below is the release of the Latin Vicariate in Amman, expressing condemnation and condolences and announcing the cancellation of Christmas celebrations in solidarity with the Jordanian families in mourning.Read More
Fifteen-year-old Chris Woods* shares his experience as a Byzantine Catholic.
I was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. Shortly after I was born, my family moved and we became parishioners at a Byzantine Catholic Church — Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic to be precise. Ever since I have been brought up in that tradition, and my views of the world have been deeply influenced by it.
Very few people even know of the beautiful tradition I grew up in, so here is its history: A few centuries after the founding of the Christian Church, two different traditions developed in the East and in the West. These traditions gradually grew further and further apart until they separated from each other completely around the 11th century. Though long foreseen, the split occurred when the West added to the Creed that the Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son without consulting the East.Read More
Christmas Press Conference
December 19th, 2016
I would like to thank you for your presence here today at the Latin Patriarchate, and on behalf of the Universal Church, I wish you a Christmas full of blessings, joy and love! In our region surrounded by wars, violence and injustice, our God, coming as a Child, has so much to teach us.
Advent, the time leading up to Christmas, is a time to prepare for God’s surprises. We know that He is coming and we want to be prepared to welcome Him with open hands and hearts. Two thousand years ago, he surprised us when He came to us as a Child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying exposed in a manger. We remember that incredible gift to all humanity at Christmas. But this is not only a time to remember but also to prepare, because we know that He will come and most likely surprise us again. We need God’s surprises. With these surprises, God opens up the horizon and brings the novelty that can change our world and our lives.Read More