Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A Not So Beleaguered Bethlehem

From the antipodean J-Wire service comes an interesting, well-illustrated, upbeat account by Ben Weiss, "A Sydney Jewish Boy’s Christmas in Bethlehem", which paints a different picture of life there from what the world media loves to feed us.  I've omitted Ben Weiss's "touristy" passages, to concentrate on the heart of the matter:

Sipping a Turkish coffee in the heart of Tel Aviv early last week, I pondered how a secular Jew from Australia might experience Christmas in a country where a public celebration of such a holiday is considered taboo. The instinctive answer lay 93 kilometres away, in the primordial town of Bethlehem (Hebrew meaning “The House of Bread”), the heralded birthplace of King David and one Jesus of Nazareth, and home to the oldest continuous Christian community in the world.

So on a crisp Christmas day morning I bussed from Tel Aviv and arrived at the Damascus Gate outside the Old City walls of Jerusalem and boarded Arab Bus 21A, en route to Bethlehem. The 30 minute bus journey took me straight into the heart of this ancient and vibrant nerve centre of 30,000 inhabitants. An Australian Jew, I was able to travel freely into the Palestinian Territories, bypassing the travel restrictions currently in place on Israeli passport holders, and joined the flock of 90,000 tourists and pilgrims who made the journey to attend this year’s Christmas festivities.


There has been a loud argument sounded that the West Bank barrier, a 400-plus mile-long mix of cement walls, is illegal, oppressive and a form of apartheid. A contra view, having witnessed the streams of tourist’s seamlessly crossing the fence into the West Bank (the 1.45 million people that visited Bethlehem alone this year was 60% up on last year), the overflowing coffee shops and souvenir stores, is that it is business as usual in the West Bank.

With easy tourism, co-operation between the Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces at the highest levels, an absence of terror attacks originating from the West Bank (incidentally, there were 30 rockets fired into Israel from Gaza last week alone), there is great room for optimism that a form of stable “peace” and recognition can be achieved between people from 2 great religions who co-existed for centuries and have more in common than that which divides them.


Riding the bus back to Jerusalem, I reflected on a surreal outing which will loom large in my thoughts and memory for some time. And why was that? Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that my new reality was in stark contrast to the picture of abject hopelessness, created and fanned by world media regarding the state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (and which admittedly I had previously carried around in my head too).

The great English thinker, John Milton, said it correctly “Evil news rides post, while good news bates”. Today, there was only good news to report and long and far may these positive words stretch. Far from being the leper of the international world, Israel has diplomatic ties with 154 countries, and if a Jew and a pair of religious Catholics can cross the border together into a Muslim controlled area on Christmas day, share a falafel inside an Arab market and a drink overlooking the old city of Jerusalem, talking world affairs freely and openly, a Utopian solution to this border problem may be more conceivable than the world media may have us all believe.



  1. Glad you saw this.

    I read it this morning [my time] and thought I'd send you the link, when I remembered it was you who put me on to the site to start with !!

  2. When in doubt,do send, Shirlee - I love having your links, and while I may not always use them straight away, I see them as grist to my mill ...

  3. Since starting to read your blog about a month ago, I really find that I like it best of all that I read. Also read Robin Shepherd, and Ray Cook, and also really enjoy Caoline Glick. Keep up the good work. From Cry4Dance

  4. That's really flattering - it's good to have feedback.
    I like all those sites too - in fact, it was Ray Cook who suggested I start blogging (I'd never have thought of it otherwise).