Sunday morning and the normal sounds of Bethlehem are stilled.
another long night and an early morning of sporadic shooting and
shelling, many people are simply afraid to leave their homes. Almost
everyone killed and wounded here yesterday were people on the street, at
their neighbors, in their homes, not in anyway engaged in a fight with
the Israeli forces. The sense of vulnerability is very high, as quiet
can descend for a time but without warning shots suddenly ring out or a
tank shell explodes.
Evidently, the Israeli tanks which were in the heart of the city last
night withdrew back to the positions they held yesterday morning near
the Paradise and Intercontinental Hotels. But, the tanks on the hill
south of the Church of the Nativity remain, and a bunker is being
constructed, indicating they will remain in place.
Today, our church bells at Lutheran Christmas Church will be silent,
the congregation is unable to get from their homes to the church.
Yousef, our custodian who prepares the church each Sunday, has a tank
right outside of his front door and cannot move. Pastor Saliba from
Beit Sahour, who was going to come to cover the service as Pastor Mitri
Raheb is out of the country, cannot get to Bethlehem from there. Almost
every member has a similar story.
As you gather in your congregations this Sunday morning, give thanks
that you can do so. Lift in prayer your sisters and brothers in Beit
Sahour, Beit Jala and Bethlehem who will not be able to do so, who won't
know the comfort of gathering together. Remember all the children and
university students who will not be able to attend classes across the
West Bank. Remember families who are running low on food staples and
May wisdom prevail and the killing cease....
"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not
driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not
destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the
life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies." (2 Corinthians
Rev. Sandra Olewine
United Methodist Liaison - Jerusalem