The city of Bethlehem, the place of birth Baby Jesus our savior, is a ghost city. The city of Bethlehem and the suburbs, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, are now under siege. Only citizens of these cities can go in, and only the non-citizens can go out. It’s a one way to go in but not out, and one way to go out, but not in again.
Bethlehem has encountered many war- like conditions, and had many hard times in the recent years, but what is happening now is different. This is the city where the king of peace was born, but never had peace yet.
I lived most of my life in Beit Sahour: A couple of miles south east of Bethlehem. Numerous times, I used to walk up to Bethlehem, and since we all get older, I still enjoy the walk down from Bethlehem to Beit Sahour.
(Beit Sahour is at a lower elevation than Bethlehem)
Like many other places around the globe, the new updated version or possibly man-made corona virus hit the city with tens of casualties so far. As an immediate precaution, the city and the surroundings were declared as quarantined areas. School, churches, mosques and any crowded locations had to shut down, for at least a month. The city that used to be crowded with buses and walking groups of pilgrims from around the world, is no longer a habitants’ city.
As it may be well known, Bethlehem and the surrounding cities depend on tourism as a major source of income, living and survival. These cities have the tradition of carving in the olive wood, that is cut from the olive trees after pruning every other year, to maintain healthy and productive trees. Many designs of olive wood statues and figurines, olive wood rosaries, last suppers and wooden nativity sets that are bought and spread to all over the world are hand crafted and made by people living in those cities. Pilgrims around the world buy Gifts from Bethlehem as souvenirs and blessings to keep in their homes. Blessings from the Holy land, where Jesus was born, lived and taught his disciples, crucified and resurrected. It’s the Holiest place for Christians around the world, and it’s a great opportunity to anyone who can get something from these cities like the hand-crafted olive wood gifts.
At this time of hardship, we, at Bethlehem Gifts encounter an increasing demand for blessed gifts from the Holy land, to get closer to God and to Church. A rosary in your pocket, to pray the rosary, or a comfort cross in your hand, or a crucifix hanging on your house, with your prayers and faith, will definitely protect you and your family.
In addition to schools, all the stores including the olive wood gifts stores have closed for at least a month. The major source of living is in danger, and the major place of prayers, the Church of the Nativity is now closed to the public. Pilgrims were detained in their hotels, until arrangements are made to transport them directly to the airport to fly back home. Upon arrival, they will be detained, checked, and possibly quarantined at their homeland airports.
The city of Bethlehem is living in darkness, sadness and uncertainty as a result of this new- comer and updated version of the corona virus. For the first time in recorded history, no single pilgrim is there.
We and all the believers in one God around the world, who face similar health threatening condition in their hometowns will raise prayers to God the Almighty, for the city of peace, Bethlehem and for everyone who passes by this city to be safe and protected. We raise our prayer to Jesus to protect His hometown and ALL our brothers and sisters in the Holy land and around the world. We raise our prayers to our Blessed Mother of God to keep the Church of the Nativity and everyone who visited that place to be safe and healthy. We pray and ask in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that His protection and mercy will be shed upon those who suffer from this illness and infection in China and all Asia, in Italy and all Europe, in the Americas, Australia, Africa and everywhere else in this world.
The Christians of the Holy Land are the descendants and inheritors of the early Christians, who followed Jesus and His steps until now. We believe that with prayers and faith, the city of Bethlehem and its people will be in good hands and survive this danger.
As we promise to continue to supply to the faithful community around the world and especially in the USA, all what we have in stock of the religious olive wood gifts that are hand-made and brought from our families in Bethlehem, we may not be able to keep this promise, as the supply we have may not be replenished soon.
Let us all keep our prayers for all those who were infected, to empower them, recover and heal soon. Let us invest in this condition spiritually to get closer to God and better understand and live His commandments.
As always, we pray and ask in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.