Christmas Eve up-date

by ray goodlass

It’s Christmas Eve today. In the morning we worked again on Abed the cave dwelling man’s property near Hebron, rest of the day free for Christmas type socialising, and given our location there’s a lot of that going on.

Though Bethlehem purports to be, according to two of the Christan gospels, the place where a man known subsequently as Jesus Christ was born it was only when the Byzantine (i.e. Easter Roman Empire) Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and his indefatigable mother (St) Helena went on a church building spree journey (Church of the Nativity here, the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem)  that Bethlehem became a Christian holy site and honey pot for the faithful or gullible, or both at the same time, I suspect.

I’ve discovered how the Hebron Settlers can throw shit down on the Palestinians – its the only Israeli settlement actually built in the centre of a Palestinian town, the rest being on stolen land outside the town centres, usually on ridges or hill tops.

Though the work we are doing won’t of course immediately, if ever, bring a change of heart from the Israeli government we are at least doing something to help the Palestinians, however ‘small’, and showing solidarity with them is a very important part of our presence too.

Last night we had a lecture from a Palestian professor in what has become my ‘home from home’, the next door ‘Restaurant 1890’, named for when it was built (partly because it is so welcoming, comfortable, ‘authentic'(six foot thick Jerusalem stone walls and arch-domed stone ceiling, but not touristy, and has free wi-fi), and the night before we watched a Palestinian DVD, ‘Our Story’. Both were excellent, and though I’ve read all (or most of the content before it was great, even inspirational, to hear it in an authentic voice.

Somehow I pressed the wrong button on my trusty little tablet and all the text I had typed about Christianity in Bethlehem disappeared, but to sum it up it started in the 4th Century CE when the Byzantine (ie Eastern Roman) Emperor Constantine converted and his mother (St) Helena went on a cathedral building spree at as many so-called Holy sites she could lay her hands on including the Church of the Nativity here, and the Holy Sepuchre in Jerusalem. Today I read that Bethlehem has the largest proportion of Christians in Palestine, and cerainly most of the women I see around aren’t wearing Muslim dress, but that may well also be because of all the Arab countries Palestine is very secular.