An old classmate of mine, William B. Walker, sent me a report from Bethlehem, where several peace marches and anti-wall marches are taking place this holiday season.
DESPITE UGLY AND DEMEANING 8 METER HIGH WALL, MANY FROM AROUND THE GLOBE MAKE IT TO BETHLEHEM THIS CHRISTMAS
By William B. Walker
I celebrated Jesus' birthday by going to Bethlehem's Manger Square and singing Christmas carols with visitors from Italy, the USA, Canada, and Palestine-We did this just after the finishing of the midnight mass in the Nativity Church, where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had also been in attendance for the first time.
According to Al-Jazeera News, "A recent lull in violence and renewed Middle East peace talks have bolstered tourist and pilgrim numbers, with the Palestinian town in the West Bank enjoying its busiest Christmas since the second intifada began seven years ago .
Despite the festive atmosphere, however, a heavy police deployment, the presence of Israel's massive separation wall and unease among Bethlehem's ever-shrinking Christian population served as reminders of the lingering tensions in the region."
Al-Jazeera also noted that this recent seven-year period contrasts starkly with the 7 years just after the Oslo Peace Accords, which were signed in 1993. At that time many 1000s came each Christmas tide to Bethlehem for the first time.
This fairly disturbing trend in the lack of peace and security in Bethlehem and in other Israeli controlled Holy Land cities over these past 7 years has also coincided in a fairly great decline in the number of Jewish settlers arriving in Israel.
In short, on the face of it, the combined effects of the failed intifada of 2000 and the increase in the number of Israeli settlements (plus the somewhat obscene wall-building by Israel) over the last decade have made a mess out of what was once a blossoming peace process here in the Middle East.