Israel: Free Transport, IPRAYNEWS Live Bethlehem Christmas Internet Video

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Jerusalem ---- December 23 .....Israel has announced that it will provide free transportation to Bethlehem as IPRAYNEWS provides free, live Internet Web cam of Christmas Mass in Bethlehem.

Israel's Ministry of Tourism in a warm, kind act for Christians, will provide free transportation for the thousands of tourists and pilgrims expected to travel to Bethlehem for the traditional Christmas celebrations on December 24th and 25th.

Bus shuttles will run every half hour between Jerusalem and Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity from noon on the 24th to midday Christmas Day. Outlining preparations for the upcoming Christmas holiday at the crossing between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Israel Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said that pilgrimage is a Bridge for Peace.

For those of you who can't make it to the Holy Land for Christmas or Hanukkah, I PRAY NEWS will be providing free Internet Web cam video stream of Christmas in Bethlehem.

IPRAYNEWS will launch the first international news network via satellite by airing a free broadcast of the Christmas festivities in Bethlehem. The 60 minute live Internet web video and audio will be replayed for 24 hours starting on December 24th at 2:00 pm Eastern Standard Time US.

Christians from all over the world gather in Bethlehem each year to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This year will be the first time that Christians worldwide can experience the paramount celebration from the comfort of their homes with their families.

IPRAYNEWS would like to unite the prayers of Christians around the globe this Christmas by presenting this unique program from Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, free of charge. IPRAYNEWS, which has won the FOX News Oblivion news of the world award for keeping this broadcast a secret, suggests in a news release to sign on to to see the special Bethlehem parade and tree lighting in Manger Square.

In past years, the Christmas festivities were under the supervision of Israel. Today, Bethlehem is considered to be a part of what will be the State of Palestine if Palestinians agree to recognize Israel and stop terrorism. Palestinian terrorism, which has not sent one Israeli running away to New York, London or Paris, but rather Islamic terror which has all but destroyed the economy in Palestine.

Christian leaders and local authorities have expressed concern about the impact that low number of tourists will have on the already hard-pressed Bethlehem residents. Geoff Tunnicliffe, the chief executive officer of the World Evangelical Alliance, said a year ago some 200 buses transport tourists a day. But now there are only five tourists buses a day. "Many of the Christians are dependent upon the tourist trade," Tunnicliffe noted to Mission Network News on Thursday. "Because of the economics, because of the stress they’re under, many Christians have had to leave the area."

In recent years several Palestinian suicide bombers from Bethlehem have blown themselves up in Jerusalem. Foreign passport holders can cross freely in both directions, but most Palestinians and Israelis cannot. On Friday, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams accompanied by a delegation of U.K. church leaders visited the Israel-Palestinian area. Williams, who serves as spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the delegation said the presence of the delegation was "here to say to the people of Bethlehem that they are not forgotten," according to Open Bethlehem. "We are here to say: what affects you affects us. We are here to say, your suffering is our suffering too, in prayers and in though and in hope," said the archbishop.

The birthplace of Jesus is facing one of the darkest chapters in its history, according to Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh’s just-delivered annual Christmas address, and of course it’s all the fault of the Jews. The pro-Palestinian Middle East Online reports that the Roman Catholic mayor, a 71-year-old Marxist former “activist” in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), sees Bethlehem today as little more than “a big prison,” thanks to the Israeli security fence.

“Usually around Christmas time Bethlehem used to be packed with tourists and pilgrims,” the mayor said. “Now, as you can see, the little town seems to be so quiet under the shadow of this wall.” The wall has devastated Palestinian farmers as well, the mayor said, adding that acres of arable land were confiscated to make way for the barrier’s cement blocks and guard towers. “Many Palestinian farmers are denied access to reach their lands to collect their harvest,” Batarseh said. “Many others have no access to markets to sell their produce.”

The dwindling tourist numbers, Israeli closures and the severe limits on Palestinian work permits are, he asserts, the reason why unemployment in Bethlehem has soared to 65 percent. Meanwhile, the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government promised Bethlehem municipal authorities $50,000 for Christmas decorations, but the money has yet to arrive. Still, Batarseh, who despite his Christian faith is a Hamas ally who holds office thanks to the votes of councilors from the radical movement, refused to criticize the ruling Islamists.

Before analyzing the claims of Mayor Batarseh in detail, a word about the man. Batarseh’s own militant faction, the PLFP, is guided by Marxism-Leninism and, together with other left-wing Palestinian organizations, claims to be struggling to build a socialist society. Its founder, Greek Orthodox George Habash, viewed the “liberation” of Palestine as an integral part of the world Communist revolution. In May 2000 Habash resigned as general secretary of the PLFP because of failing health and was replaced by Abu Ali Mustafa.

The PFLP advocates armed insurrection and perpetrates media-oriented attacks, including the hijacking of planes, to bring the Palestinian cause to public attention and to fulfill its dream of annihilating Israel. The PFLP hijacked an Israeli aircraft in 1968. It abducted and threatened four American journalists in Beirut in 1981 (two from the New York Times, one from the Washington Post and one from Newsweek). PFLP members have continued to perpetrate terrorist acts through the years.

IPRAYNEWS will transcend the politics and Palestine terrorism and invites Internet viewers to go into the ancient Church of the Nativity for the rare viewing of the Christ Mass. Then to browse the many exciting services that this program has to offer its members.

Members of IPRAYNEWS will have 24 hour access to live video and audio footage of the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives and Eastern Gate in Jerusalem. This site offers free calling to other members through voice over IP. IPRAYNEWS offers relevant global news for prayer, seminars with world renowned lecturers, interactive Q&A, current events as they happen, pending governmental decisions and many more features. states that their service is where Christians can unite with other Christians in prayer over the holy places in Israel and the decision-making centers around the world.

Bethlehem which used to host around 100,000 pilgrims celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ over Christmas, expects to receive a fraction of that number this year. 'There is hardly a Christmas feeling in the city', says Sami Awad, of the Holy Land Trust. Most, if not all, Bethlehem residents blame Israel, specifically for the security roadblocks set up between the city and Jerusalem, erected after the Palestine uprising broke out in 2000. They also blame them for the security fence, a long, concrete and wire structure which snakes along, and in same places in, the West Bank.

Israel built the security fence to prevent would-be suicide bombers from reaching Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other Israel cities, but residents of Bethlehem complain that it has succeeded in virtually imprisoning them inside their own city, and keeping the tourists out.

This year however there may be another reason why the tourists aren't coming - the fierce in-fighting in the Palestine Territories, which potential pilgrims may not realize has so far been confined almost entirely to the Gaza Strip. Whatever the reason, the scarcity of pilgrims for yet another year has once again impacted negatively on the local economy, which centres around the tourist trade.

The city's centrepiece is Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, traditional birth pace of Jesus Christ. It is almost deserted, with only a few locals and a small group of tourists - from Singapore - wandering around.

'We can't make a living here anymore,' complains Ismail, a 55- year-old local taxi driver. Work is scare, he says, indicating a long line of taxis waiting, hoping, for a fare. Ten years ago there were 70 or 80 tourist buses coming in (over Christmas), now maybe there are five,' says Ahmed, who sells coffee in the square. He can hardly make a living, he says, and cannot pay his wife's medical bills.

Nearby a Christian shop owner shouts that he is offering a '99 per cent discount on everything' in stock. 'Just to sell something,' he says with a tired smile. Bethlehem did receive its annual Christmas grant from the Palestinian government - 50,000 US dollars, sent by Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of the ruling Islamic Hamas party. But the cash is needed to pay outstanding salaries and the festive decorations placed in the city have been paid for by private funding from varied sources, including the Islamic Bank and the Lutheran Church.

Adding to the city's woes is a strike by municipal employees, who say they have not been paid for months. 'We don't even have money to come to work,' says Mohammed, a resident of the nearby Aroub refugee camp, who works for the municipality. These are the street cleaners, who 'make Bethlehem nice,' as one of the strikers pointedly states. Bethlehem's mayor, Dr Victor Batarsi, says he can only hope they go back to work before Christmas, even though 'there is simply no money to pay the workers.' He says that the people are not paying their taxes either, owing to the situation. Batarsi, a Christian, by law the mayor of Bethlehem has to be a Christian - is furious at the international boycott of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has been in place since the Islamic Hamas movement won the elections and took office in March, and refused demands to recognize Israel.

'This is not a Hamas-led government, this is the Palestinian people's government,' he states. Khaled Jodeh, a member of the Bethlehem city council from the Hamas-affiliated Islamic list, echoes Batarsi's statements. 'The West wants to punish Hamas, but they are punishing the whole Palestinian people. Bethlehem suffers in particular because of the wall putting our city under siege,' he says. Awad is optimistic things will pick up during the two days around Christmas. He is pessimistic they will last longer than that. Referring to the upcoming Muslim Eid al-Adha feast, which falls in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, and is one of the two major Muslim holidays, Jodeh is more succint. 'Muslims and Christians here,' he says, 'are both suffering.'

Yes, it’s a shame a fence had to be built to protect Israel men. women and children from invasion by murderers from the Palestinian Authority. These terrorists have come from Bethlehem as from elsewhere in the PA. On February 22, 2004, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the terrorist group associated with current PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, dispatched Muhammed Za’ul from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. He detonated a terror bomb strapped to his body on Egged bus No. 14A in Jerusalem, killing eight civilians and wounding more than 60, 11 of them young high school students.

On March 29, 2003, Iat Alacharas, 23, from Dehaisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem killed two civilians and injured 22 when she detonated her explosives belt at a supermarket in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Yovel neighborhood. On April 1, 2004, the IDF raided the Dehaisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem to arrest a number of terrorists, including Palestinian Security personnel who were planning to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians. Twelve terrorists, most of them from Fatah Tanzim, had hidden in a psychiatric hospital, which act is itself yet another violation of international law.

The October 16, 2005, terrorist attack that murdered two cousins, Matat Rosenfeld Adler and Kineret Mandel, as well as 14-year-old Oz Ben Meir, was perpetrated by men who fled to the Bethlehem village of El-Aroub. We could go on and on. Access to Israel from Bethlehem must be controlled. Merry Christmas, Mayor Batarseh.

Merry Christmas to all those Christians allowed to practice their faith in Israel, and to all those who suffer under Palestinian rule. Peace on Earth, and may peace reign in Israel, thanks to its life-saving fence.



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