“. . . the Bible includes stories of violence and genocide, resembling recent history . . .” (Leonard Marsh)

church-nativity
Ancient mosaics on a wall of the Church of the Nativity uncovered during restoration works by Italian experts at the site, Jul. 19, 2016. (Thomas Coex/AFP)

❶ . Palestinians celebrate Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

  • Background:  “Whose Holy Land?” Studies In World Christianity

❷ . Bethlehem: Nativity church with new shine
❸ . Israel besieges Bethlehem villages in search of stabbing suspect
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❶ . PALESTINIANS  CELEBRATE  CHRISTMAS  EVE  IN  BETHLEHEM  
Ma’an News Agency 
Dec. 24, 2016 – Palestinians marked the occasion of Christmas Eve on Saturday morning in the southern occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem, which is traditionally held as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
___A parade lead by the Latin Patriarch of Palestine, Jordan, and the Holy Land Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who is also the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, are set to arrive in Bethlehem in the afternoon and will be officially received at the Nativity Church in Bethlehem’s Manger Square.     Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah are also expected to arrive in Bethlehem later Saturday to partake in Midnight Mass.    More . . .

  • Marsh, Leonard. “Whose Holy Land?” Studies In World Christianity 15.3 (2009): 276-286.   SOURCE.

[. . . .] . . . [Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Anglican Theologian] sees the 1967 war as a crucial moment in the history of the Israeli state. The occupation . . . was, according to him, attributed by a large percentage of Israelis and many Western Christians as ‘God’s powerful intervention on the side of Israel and against the Arabs’. Ateek realises that the Bible itself can and has been used as an ideological tool in asserting a religious basis for Zionism, originally a secular movement. For Palestinians, the Bible arguably has been used in a way to support injustice and inequality.       ___Understood in a literal way, the Bible appears to Palestinians to justify their enslavement and undermine their hopes for a national homeland. When Christians recite the ‘Benedictus,’ including the words ‘Blessed be the God of Israel,’ Ateek asks what this means. Which Israel is being referred to? What redemption is being promised, and to whom? One problem facing Palestinian Christian Theology simply is a matter of how the Bible itself is to be understood by Palestinian Christians.      [. . . .]  Former Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah . . .  noted we have to struggle in order to maintain and build peace with justice. Interpreting the Bible is a demanding task. Such interpretations concern our very national and personal identities as believers because unilateral, partial interpretations run the risk – for some – of bringing into question their presence and permanence in this land, which is their homeland. Questions to be addressed include, what is the relationship between the Old and New Testaments? The narrative of the Bible includes stories of violence and genocide, resembling recent history which may be attributed to God. How is this to be understood? What is the relationship between ancient Biblical history and contemporary history? Is Biblical Israel to be identified with the state of Israel? . . .  Does the Bible justify current political claims made on its behalf? Could we be victims of our own salvation history, which seems to favour the Jewish people and condemn others?        [. . . .] Mitri Raheb, pastor of the Bethlehem Christmas Lutheran Church . . .  has observed that until the middle of the nineteenth century, the Palestinian churches interpreted the Bible allegorically or typologically. This is no longer possible. The advent of Zionism has made the Old Testament a political text, and made the Bible problematic the moment the modern state of Israel was formed. He also has addressed the question of the Q’uran from an Arab Christian perspective. His intention is to have an understanding of Muslim scripture which would provide the basis for a Christian-Muslim relationship within contemporary Arab society [. . . .]

❷ . BETHLEHEM:  NATIVITY  CHURCH  WITH  NEW  SHINE 
Deutsche Welle 
Dec. 23, 2016 – Every year at Christmas time, people from around the world head for the West Bank city of Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity, where it is believed Jesus was born. This year the church shines more brightly than it has for centuries.
More (video) . . .           Related Video: Attacks cast shadow on Bethlehem Christmas    Background: The Restoration of the Church of Nativity

christmas-lutheran
Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem (Photo: Harold Knight, 2008)

❸ .  ISRAEL  BESIEGES  BETHLEHEM  VILLAGES  IN  SEARCH  OF  STABBING  SUSPECT
Ma’an News Agency
Dec. 24, 2016 – Israeli forces continued to crackdown on Palestinian villages in the southern occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem on Saturday, in search for a man who allegedly stabbed and lightly injured a settler in the illegal Israeli settlement of Efrat southwest of Bethlehem Friday night.     [. . . . ]   There was a heavy presence of Israeli soldiers in several areas across Bethlehem that continued into Saturday morning, with reports of clashes erupting between Palestinians and Israeli forces overnight Friday.       More . . .  

NATIVITY CHURCH MOSAICS
A worker from the Piacenti restoration center works on a mosaic in the Church of the Nativity. (Photo: Jul. 14, 2016 Catholic News Service)

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