Violence in Middle East takes it's toll on Christian Arabs, too!
by Ray Hanania

Ariel Sharon's incursion onto courtyard of the Al Aqsa Mosque the al-Haram Al-Ash-Sharif to Muslims and the Temple Mount to Jews) has wrongly cast the current Middle East violence as being between Jews and Muslims.

The fact is that nearly a third of the victims of the violence are Christian Palestinians. As American Christians ready themselves for the Millennium Christmas, I am surprised that this fact does not seem to be more important to them.

Shocking must be the contrast between Bethlehem's Biblical images Americans will display in their homes and the reality of this little town embattled night and day by Israel's military assault. 

Bethlehem, this most powerful Icon of Christianity, is literally being ripped to pieces. And so are the neighboring Christian towns of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. And there is not a protest from the Christian world.

More than half of Chicago's Arabs are Christians, worshipping in five churches that offer services in the Arabic language. My mother's family hails from Bethlehem. Her cousin presides over the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square.

During a recent visit to Bethlehem, I spoke with Father Samour who told me that the church has always survived even the most brutal attacks.

His words are little comfort as I watch the raw footage of Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships blasting into the heart of this tiny, little town on satellite TV, my only remedy to one-sided media coverage.

Each day, the death toll of Christians and Muslims rises. More and more Palestinian homes and structures in Bethlehem are being destroyed. 

Many of Chicago's Christian Palestinian community will observe the Millennium Christmas by keeping the lights on their Christmas trees and season decorations turned off.

For Christians who trace their roots directly to this little town of Bethlehem, nothing can compete with the glow that shines in the courage heroism that we see in the faces of our families back home. 

This Christmas belongs to them. 

(November 1, 2000.  Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American writer.)

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