Jordan closed Bethlehem to Christians from 1949 until 1967 when Israel opened the gates. Now the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, prohibited a Jewish guide from attending a Congressman’s tour.
Florida Republican and Tea Party member Allen West wrote his constituents after touring Israel earlier this month, “When we went to Bethlehem to visit the birthplace of Jesus- a Jew- our group was not allowed to have our regular Jewish guides or bus drivers because Israeli citizens are not allowed in Bethlehem or the ancient city of Jericho where the Bible teaches us that Joshua blew down the wall with trumpets.”
Jordan closed off Jewish and Christian sites to Jews and Christians after it took over Judea and Samaria, part of it mandated to a supposed new country of Trans-Jordan by the United Nations in the United Nations Partition Plan.
After the War for Independence formally ended in 1949, Jordan occupied all of the Old City and other large areas of Jerusalem, as well as all of Judea and Samaria.
The Western Wall (Kotel) and Hevron were barred to Jews and Christians were barred from churches and other holy sites in Judea and Samaria and areas of Jerusalem occupied by Jordan.
Israel opened up all of the sites to all religions after the Six-Day War in 1967. Israeli governments, during the past decade, have gradually surrendered control of the Bethlehem area to the Palestinian Authority. Abbas has declared that a future Palestinian Authority state would be open to all religions, but West’s experience shows the opposite.
He also wrote his constituents, "America is my physical homeland…. Israel, however, is my spiritual homeland. It is a place about which I have read and studied my entire life. It is the place where my Judeo-Christian faith heritage was born. Israel is the place that completes me as a person.”
He said his experience of his Jewish guide being barred from Bethlehem revealed a “hypocrisy” that raises the question, “What is Palestine?"
After tracing the word from the Roman word Palestina under the Roman Empire, he wrote, “After World War I and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate referred to the region in this term, Palestine. And all residents, Jews and Arabs, had passports declaring them from Palestine.
“Let us no longer operate under the misconceived notion that Palestine has anything to do with being Arab. For those who tout, “Free Palestine,” I agree, return it back to the inhabitants [Jews] who had the land taken from them back in the early 1st Century AD by the Romans.”
Rep. West said he met with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and told his home district that Fayyad “spoke of freedom and dignity -- but what of recognition and respect of Israel? …. While we were in Israel, the PA never denounced the most recent heinous terrorist attack [near Eilat].”