A Christmas message from Bethlehem

 We, the Christian Palestinians, have always believed that Bethlehem would never experience the atrocities of war. But we were wrong. We have seen the atrocities of war. During this past year in Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born, we have been under military curfew for a total of 112 days, what you Americans call "lock-down." We heard through the Israeli media that this military curfew would continue until the end of December. Christians say, "What about Christmas? They can't do this to us." Muslims say, "What about Eid el- Fiter after Ramadan?" But then, seemingly, the Israelis can do whatever they want. The world is silent. The constant Israeli curfews and incursions have left the Palestinian people exhausted and worn out. We are literally poor economically, but emotionally as well, and that is the most difficult of all. We have forgotten how to smile. People have aged. The teenagers in my classes tell me they feel so old and are missing out on the most beautiful time in their lives. They are worried about their future and they don't think that they will live long enough to see peace. "Not in our life time" they say. The students get angry and depressed when they hear that in America, you have already started your Christmas decorations and will celebrate the birth of Christ in your churches while we will not be allowed to attend Midnight Mass in the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Christ. It's time for violence to end and we are in desperate need of help. It's time for both Israelis and Palestinians to extend their hand in peace, so that both peoples can live in dignity, stability, security and freedom. It's a God-given right for every human being. As you Americans sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem," in honour of the Prince of Peace, we beg your prayers and your support. We wish you all a Peaceful Christmas from Bethlehem. Susan Atallah is Christian Palestinian schoolteacher

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