There are two significantly conflicting reports on the Christmas spirit in Bethlehem:
ABC News featured an AP report painting a rosy picture. It depicts the rea as hopeful and optimistic. It claims the return of “Holiday spirit” finally, “as hundreds of pilgrims from around the world packed the town of Jesus’ birth for Christmas Eve celebrations.” The article reads like there is no occupation: the town has good security, people feel safe, there seems to be no conflict, the PA (good) did not donate all the money it said it would, and Israel (bad) eased travel restrictions.
It is not until the last three paragraphs that the article gets to the real issues. Buried deep in this on-line article is the news about what really impact people:
Yet Israel’s massive West Bank barrier cast a shadow on the celebrations. The structure,which snakes along the boundary with the West Bank, has divided Bethlehem and prevented tourists from walking into town on the biblical-era road likely used by Jesus and Mary.
A bit more in touch, Toronto’s Globe & Mail gets down to business to begin with. The lead paragraph says:
These should be the most festive of times in what is, for many, among the holiest of places. Instead, the mood in Bethlehem in the lead-up to Christmas has had a pall cast over it by the latest growth in what residents here loathingly refer to as “the wall.”
Whereas the AP simply states Israel lightened travel restrictions, the G & M gives the important context: “on Nov. 15, Israel sealed one of the last remaining gaps in the eight-metre-high concrete wall it is building along Bethlehem’s northern border.” Those “trying to reach the holy city were directed to cross through a new system of passport checks, iron turnstiles and metal detectors.”
Travelers cannot take their own vehicles inside Bethlehem. They are “forced instead to cross on foot through a massive bunker that resembles a bomb shelter in shape, before hailing a taxi on the other side.” In other words, it is relieving its own unnecessarily harsh travel limitations.
Sister Erica, a nun, complained “If Mary and Joseph were here today, they would go through the checkpoint just like everybody else.” The 3 Kings, from far away lands, would definitely not be allowed in.