From Bethlehem: We are grateful

Posted on Mar 14, 2020

Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh writes from Bethlehem.

We are grateful for all who have written letters of concern, prayed for us, or thought about us. We are working hard and we thank those of you who asked about us.

Here in Bethlehem (Palestine), it has been 6 days in lockdown because of the COVID-19 cases. But the birthplace of Jesus in 2020 provided a message of hope to all humanity. So far and thanks to amazing people cooperation, only 37 cases in Bethlehem and one in Tulkarem but thankfully all related to known sources (the Greek Delegation that visited Bethlehem and a worker from Tulkarem who worked in an Israeli area).

We are inspired by so many others. I received for example letters from Italy and videos of Italians singing on their balconies in a daily ritual now to lift their and their neighbors’ spirits. Many countries (not the US though) helped financially other countries.

And we hear China sent delegation of medical experts to Italy to help. We are grateful.

Like others around the world who know we can defeat this virus, our work here at the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) did not stop. Animals have to be fed at the museum garden (chickens, peacocks, rabbits, hamsters, hawk, fish) so we come every day. Many staff and volunteers work from home. We do research and education (via emails and social media), After all, the vision of PIBS of sustainable human and natural communities and its goals cannot and must not be suspended. Our struggle against occupation, colonization, and oppression does also encompass this work.

PIBS at Bethlehem University has a motto of respect: for ourselves (empowerment), for others (human joint struggle), and for nature (animals and plants that share our beautiful planet). We will survive this period of hardship; some of our activities are on hold and money is tight) but we help each other.

I can write a whole book on how our community is rising to the challenge and not just medical personnel but police, shop owners, owners of restaurants, and many others who work silently. Many donate food, medicines, money etc to help those in quarantine or families of those infected.

On the first discovery of the virus, activists used the hashtag of “Bethlehem Stay Strong” on social media. I am pleased to report that Bethlehem is very strong. Our people are inspiring.

Internationals who stayed here against all odds are also inspirational (several with us at PIBS). Even today, we got a donation of used books. Should you wish to show us your support with a short letter of support or a donation (see ) then please do.

P.S. I was shaking my head yesterday at the ironies: Trump refused to be tested after he had shaken hands with infected Brazilian right wing nuts and with congressmen who were at the AIPAC who shook hands with the infected Zionist convention attendees. Then he and his nutty VP held a “press conference” (gathering), shaking hands, sharing microphone, and wiping their faces as they told the American public not to do these things!!

But Biden will be even worse.

He [Trump] also said he has no responsibility for clear mishandling earlier of the US epidemic situation. Maybe with his declaration of national state of emergency, Trump will stay in power with or without “election” and declare martial law and create more concentration camps for immigrants and Muslim. People can’t even go out in the streets to demonstrate anymore because of the fear of the virus and the movement restrictions. Truly Orwellian world we live in.

Positive things: decline in economic activity including travel may buy Planet Earth a bit more time to be saved from climate change and may give people more time to read books, reflect more, join activists, live more frugally, eat healthy foods, think of an help others etc. So you see the cup is half full. We in this besieged “little town of Bethlehem” and all of humanity and our planet (animals and plants) are grateful to all who ACT. Please do.

Stay Human

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Founder, and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
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