Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

Church bells are ringing, families are wearing their Sunday best
Choirs are singing, red sun is setting in the west
A soldier is yelling, standing tall
Checkpoint is closing, outside a giant wall
It’s Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

Tourists are coming – birthplace of Jesus, a call to port
Now they are leaving, they say you should keep it short
Shop floors are empty, there’s no one there
Checkpoint is closing to Manger Square
It’s Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

Those Christians who stay here dream of sprouting wings
But they stubbornly stay near their long-lost kings
Relatives stranded far away
They have been branded terrorists, that’s what the colonists say
It’s Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

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“Christmas Eve in Bethlehem” originally appeared on the Bandcamp album, Spies Are Reading My Blog, in 2013. And later also on the collection of Palestine-related songs in 2014 on both Bandcamp and CD, Falasteen Habibti (“Palestine, My Love”).

The fact that a significant number of the Palestinians living under a longstanding and brutal Israel occupation are Christians from the Bethlehem/Beit Sahour area, is a thing that the average Israel-loving American evangelical has trouble with. There is something incredibly surreal about visiting Bethlehem, and seeing the alleged birthplace of Jesus in the Church of the Nativity, along with lots of recent bullet holes, when I was there in 2005. The most surreal part is going through the massive wall that surrounds the town, manned by Israeli soldiers on a perpetual hair trigger. As soon as you pass into the Bethlehem side of the wall, there is a stenciled thing on the wall that people must have put there at great personal risk that just says “welcome to the ghetto.”