To all my friends, all over the world, I send my greetings, wishing you all a Merry Christmas! Some 2000 years ago the Lord decided that the time had come to fullfill his promise, that he would walk side by side with us as one of us.
As the Gospel tells this journey started in the little town of Bethlehem. Last year I spent three months there. I am so grateful for that. And I miss all the good people. Thanks once again for everything!
One of my favourite Christmas hymns is “O little town of Bethlehem”:
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
I love it because it is adorable. It is so sweet. But it is also an absolutely false description of the everday realities of Bethlehem today.
The birthplace of Jesus is a wonderful and depressing place at the same time. Everyday Bethlehem is getting more and more surrounded by fences and walls, and by illegal Israeli settlements. The government of Israel recently decided that yet another 1000 apartments should be built on occupied land next to Bethlehem.
The fight over the land is at the heart of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. I just cannot see how there can be a peace settlement unless the Israeli government halts all expansions of settlements and stops all landgrabbing by Israeli settlers.
The EU has through its representatives in the UN security council, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Portugal, protested against this:
Israel’s continuing announcements to accelerate the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, send a devastating message. We call on the Israeli government to reverse these steps. The viability of the Palestinian state that we want to see and the two-state solution that is essential for Israel’s long-term security are threatened by the systematic and deliberate expansion of settlements.
I could not agree more.
Once again I wish you all a Merry Christmas! May the Lord help us to make Bethlehem into a sweet little peaceful town again!