So, the Bethlehem terminal has been constructed, and the day feared by Bethlehemites has finally arrived; the wall has locked off Bethlehem from the rest of the world. It seems that every effort exerted to try and save Bethlehem, the birthplace of the King of Peace, from being incarcerated has been to no avail. The echoing cries and the moving stories that burst out of the streets of Bethlehem made minimal impact on the world’s conscience, and now, a new reality has been imposed on Bethlehemites, who can do nothing but pack their bags and leave or simply acquiesce to their new lifestyle. Yet stories of injustice are still being recounted, hoping that those stories will find ears to listen, and eventually, something will be done to stop this madness from being perpetuated. From the heart of Bethlehem, the city of peace and coexistence, we have stories to tell.
Things have changed drastically since my childhood days, when a trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem used to take a mere ten minutes by car. I still remember when my parents used to drive me to Bethlehem University to take part in family picnics and social activities. Being the child that I was, the Jerusalem-Bethlehem drive was a thrilling experience for me, and I recall how easy it was to enter into Bethlehem. Today, as a ghastly Grey wall greets me on the entrance to Bethlehem, I cannot help but shed a tear, as I long for my childhood days when Bethlehem was free and pulsing with economic and social life. Whether those days will ever become a reality once again or not is dependent on how the world will act to bring this nightmare to an end.
As I ramble through the streets of one of the most important cities in the Christian faith, I no longer sense the uniqueness that used to define Bethlehem. For someone who spent a good share of their childhood in Bethlehem, I can easily feel the negative change that the wall has brought by simply looking at people’s faces and hearing the street gossip. The economic indicators speak for themselves; a city that heavily relied on tourism to bolster its local economy has had its hopes to revitalize that sector crushed when the last block of wall was aligned. And Peace? Merely a word that people meet with sarcasm and giggles as the peace-by-separation equation does not add up.
While stories of injustice will continue to be told, words will never convey the true effect that this monstrous wall has inflicted upon Bethlehem. I often wonder what more can be done for the world to realize that walls will in no way bring peace but rather destroy it. Is it too late? Many fear so, as hope for true peace and justice continues to hang by a thread. Yet, with all the fingers pointing in the wrong direction, hope for a better tomorrow is what remains. From the ailing heart of Bethlehem, we call on every human being with a conscience to help us break loose from the cuffs of occupation and strengthen our hope that one-day we will taste what the world calls freedom.