salman1_2_GettyImages502408988 Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

Bethlehem’s Message of Hope

Amid expanding settlements, rising chauvinism, and a smothering occupation, the city of Bethlehem has remained vigilant in its defense of cultural and heritage sites cherished by members of different faiths and denominations. After more than two thousand years, its message to the rest of the world remains one of hope, justice, and love.

BETHLEHEM – Bethlehem’s rich history can be fully appreciated only by walking its streets. Every year, the city enters millions of homes worldwide through the image of the humble manger where Jesus was born. But that image does not compare to experiencing the Old City firsthand. Coming to Bethlehem is a unique experience that I would encourage everyone to pursue.

Unfortunately, while visitors to Bethlehem have increased in number during the past year, many are unable to explore the city properly. Under Israeli occupation, obstacles hindering the normal development of tourism in Palestine have prevented thousands of people from experiencing what Bethlehem has to offer.

For example, I often hear from Palestinian priests that, “In this land, we receive many tourists yet very few pilgrims.” In other words, there are more visitors interested in seeing the stones than in meeting the living stones. This is one consequence of Israel’s monopoly over the tourist industry. Israel has little interest in encouraging visitors to interact with Palestinians or to learn about their heritage.

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