Peace and Goodwill to All?

This year, Christian Aid centers their appeal for Christmas on a 7-year-old little Palestinian girl called Jessica who lives in Bethlehem.

Angela Bertz

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צילום: ערוץ 7
Ruth and Zeev Almog were only one year away from celebrating a remarkable event in their lives: 50 years of marriage. They had three children and were devoted to their seven grandchildren. They were often seen picking them up from the pool or from an after-school activity.

Zeev had devoted a large part of his life serving as a commander of the naval officer's training school in Acre, Israel. One of his nephews described him as a great man who loved other people. Two weeks before a horrible, fateful day in October 2003 was to darken the lives of these people forever, the whole family, totaling nearly 200 people, had celebrated a family gathering. Zeev was considered one of the leaders of this clan and delivered an emotional address to his extended family. "I have outlived all my brothers and I am thankful for my lot because it's impossible to know what awaits us [around] every corner."

That corner was sadly almost upon Zeev.

Two weeks later, Zeev and Ruth were enjoying an afternoon meal with their son and his wife, one of their daughters and three of their grandchildren. It was a balmy afternoon and the family had been to the beach in Haifa before heading to Maxim Restaurant. They were undoubtedly sharing the warmth and intimacy that comes from being part of a large family.

Within seconds the lives of this innocent family was shattered.

Zeev and Ruth, together with their son and two of their grandchildren, aged 11 and 9, were blown to pieces by a monstrous Palestinian homicide bomber (in this instance, a woman, later glorified in the Palestinian Authority as a heroine and role model).

While they were still scraping the body parts of these devoted grandparents and 19 more people off the restaurant walls, one of their grandchildren was fighting for his life.

Oran was 10 years old. He was blinded in the blast and suffered excruciatingly painful internal injuries. Maybe even worse than that is the deep emotional scars this child will carry around with him, probably for the rest of his life.

This year, Christian Aid centers their appeal for Christmas on a 7-year-old little Palestinian girl called Jessica who lives in Bethlehem. The appeal has been aptly called "Child of Bethlehem". This little girl was tragically caught in crossfire between Israelis and Palestinians. She was hit by shrapnel and consequently blinded in one eye. Jessica found it very hard to adjust to life with an artificial eye and, in the beginning, would take out one of the eyes of her dolls. She would then say "it would be like me". Jessica and her mother have had years of counseling and this has helped her face the adjustments she has had to make in her life.

This year, Jessica and her family hope to worship and celebrate Christmas in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

"O little town of Bethlehem." So goes the well-known Christmas carol. Known for being the birthplace of Jesus, it is one of the most revered spots for Christians around the world. The Church of the Nativity was built atop the spot where Jesus was believed to have been born, in a small cave that was then used as a stable.

Up until the year 1995, the town of Bethlehem was occupied by a predominantly (70%) Christian community. It was under the jurisdiction of Israel and Christians from around the world flocked there by the thousands.

In 1995, the Palestinian Authority was handed control of this well-known tourist spot. Within a few years, the Palestinians incorporated three predominantly Muslim towns of 30,000 people into Bethlehem. The city also added thousands of Bedouins and encouraged Muslim immigration from Hebron. Within a short time, the demography of this peaceful Christian town had been stunningly changed. To date, almost 50% of the town's once-large Christian population have fled, many of them out of fear.

In the year 2000, then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat slammed the door at Camp David. He turned his back on the best deal he had ever been offered, with 97% of his demands met, including the absolute unthinkable of Judaism's holiest city Jerusalem as his capital. Two months later, as an alternative to statehood, he instigated the Intifada (uprising) against Israel.

On the 2nd of April, 2002, over one hundred armed Palestinian terrorists forced their way into the Church of the Nativity. They invaded the prayers of 200 nuns and monks. They were seeking refuge from Israel's "Operation Defensive Field", launched after the previous month of March had seen the worst spate of homicide bombings since the start of the Intifada. These gunmen purposely used one of Christianity's holiest sites, knowing full well that Israel would exercise both restraint and respect towards it.

The gunmen held the church under siege for 39 days. They used it as a convenient firing range to shoot at the Israeli soldiers who had surrounded the church. They knew that Israel would not fire back out of respect for the religious status of the church.

When the standoff came to a head, many of the gunmen were expelled, not only from the PA, but transported to freedom via a luxury hotel in Cyprus to start new lives in several European countries.

Christian Aid has issued a 71-page document entitled "Facts on the ground ? The end of the two-state solution". The cover page features a picture of a barbed wired barrier, already speaking volumes about the derogatory contents to be found in the report.

Christian Aid certainly makes no mention of the siege of the Church of the Nativity; neither does it bother to mention the rapidly dwindling Christian population of the town of Bethlehem.

In fact, Christian Aid devotes almost the whole 71 pages to blaming Israel for almost every ill that has befallen the plighted Palestinians. It ignores historical facts by referring to "Occupied Palestinian Territory" and at some point even refers to the Palestinians as being indigenous to the region.

While Christian Aid has indeed proclaimed their abhorrence of Palestinian terrorism, they seem unable, or refuse to, apportion any of the blame to the people that have created it.

It refers continuously to the children of the Middle East and even has a picture gallery. With the exception of one picture of Iraqi children, every single one of them shows Palestinian children. Most of the pictures are taken to provoke maximum sympathy by concentrating exclusively on only one side of the conflict. It shows Palestinian children next to Israel's security barrier, waiting at one of Israel's checkpoints or refers to them as children living in refugee camps.

The organization's website claims that its focus is not only on the Bethlehem of the Bible, but on the contemporary situation in the Middle East. With this in mind, one really needs to ask why Christian Aid does not have even one picture of an Israeli child. Both Jessica and Oran were tragic and innocent victims of Palestinian terrorism.

There is no outpouring of Christian Aid charity or words of grief for the hundreds of Israeli children whose lives have been shattered by terrorism. No poems, no pictures, no twinkling little stars in the sky to guide them as there were for Jessica and the Palestinian children.

Frankly, I have immense respect for the millions of Christians worldwide, especially the large numbers of them who support Israel - not only in its fight against terrorism, but respect the Jews for being the true people of the Bible and the real guardians of this Holy Land. Most of the drivel apologizing for Palestinian terrorism written in the 71-page report and on Christian Aid's website is an insult, not only to Israel, but to the millions of Christians around the world who support Israel wholeheartedly.

Sadly, the message coming from Christian Aid this Christmas is a selective and biased one.

Whatever happened to peace and goodwill to all men.