Peace and Good Will to All Men
Peace and Good Will to All Men

By Angela Bertz

Ruth and Zeev Almog were only one year away from celebrating a remarkable event in their lives; 50 years of marriage. They had three children and were devoted to their seven grandchildren. They were often seen picking them up from the pool, or from an after school activity.

Zeev had devoted a large part of his life serving as a commander of the naval officer's training school in Acre, Israel. One of his nephews described him as a great man who loved other people. Two weeks before a horrible fateful day in October 2003 was to darken the lives of these people for ever, the whole family, totaling nearly 200 people had celebrated a family gathering. Zeev was considered one of the leaders of this clan and delivered an emotional address to his extended family. "I have outlived all my brothers and I am thankful for my lot because it's impossible to know what awaits us at every corner"

That corner was sadly almost upon Zeev.

Two weeks later Zeev and Ruth were enjoying an afternoon meal with their son and his wife, one of their daughters and three of their grandchildren. It was a balmy afternoon and the family had been to the beach in Haifa before heading to Maxim Restaurant. They were undoubtedly sharing the warmth and intimacy that comes from being part of a large family.

Within seconds the lives of this innocent family was shattered.

Zeev and Ruth, together with their son and two of their grandchildren aged 11 and 9 were blown to pieces by a monstrous Palestinian homicide bomber (in this instance a woman, later glorified as a heroine and role model).

While they were still scraping the body parts of these devoted grandparents and 19 more people of the restaurant walls, one of their grandchildren was fighting for his life.

Oran was 10 years old. He was blinded in the blast and suffered excruciatingly painful internal injuries. Maybe even worse than that is the deep emotional scars this child will carry around with him, probably for the rest of his life.

This year Christian Aid centers their appeal for Christmas on a 7 year old little Palestinian girl called Jessica who lives in Bethlehem. The appeal has been aptly called "Child of Bethlehem". This little girl was tragically caught in crossfire between Israelis and Palestinians. She was hit by shrapnel and consequently blinded in one eye. Jessica found it very hard to adjust to life with an artificial eye and at the beginning would take out one of the eyes of her dolls. She would then say "it would be like me". Jessica and her mother have had years of counseling and this has helped her face the adjustments she has had to make to her life.

This year Jessica and her family hope to worship and celebrate Christmas in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

O little town of Bethlehem, so goes the well know Christmas carol. Known for being the birthplace of Jesus, it is one of the most revered spots for Christians around the world. The Church of the Nativity was built atop the spot where Jesus was believed to have been born in a small cave that was then used as a stable.

Up until the year 1995 the town of Bethlehem was occupied by a predominantly Christian community of 70%. It came under the jurisdiction of Israel and Christians from around the world flocked there by the thousands.

In 1995 the Palestinian Authority were handed control of this well known tourist spot. Within a few years the Palestinians incorporated 3 predominantly Moslem towns of 30,000 people into Bethlehem. The city also added thousands of Bedouins and encouraged Moslem immigration from Hebron. Within a short time the demography of this peaceful Christian town had been stunningly changed. To date almost 50% of the town's once large Christian population have fled, many of them from fear.

In the year 2000 the then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat slammed the door at Camp David. He turned his back on the best deal he had been ever been offered, with 97% of his demands met, including the absolute unthinkable of Judaism's holiest city Jerusalem as his capital.

Two months later as an alternative to statehood he instigated the Intifada (uprising) against Israel.

On the 2nd of April 2002, over one hundred armed Palestinian terrorists forced their way into the Church of the Nativity. They invaded the prayers of 200 nuns and monks. They were seeking refuge from Israel's "Operation Defensive Field" launched after the previous month of March had seen the worse spate of homicide bombings since the start of the Intifada. These gunmen purposely used one of Christianity's holiest sites knowing full well that Israel would exercise both restraint and respect towards this most sacred site.

The gunmen held the Church under siege for 39 days. They used it as a convenient firing range to shoot at the Israeli soldiers who had surrounded the church. They knew that Israel would not fire back out of respect for the sanctity of the church.

When the standoff came to a head many of the gunmen were expelled, not only from the PA, but transported to freedom via a luxury hotel in Cyprus to start new lives in several European countries.

Christian Aid has issued a 71 page document entitled "Facts on the ground – The end of the two-state solution". The cover page features these words below a picture of a barbed wired barrier. Such a front page already speaks volumes for the derogatory contents to be found in this report.

Christian Aid certainly makes no mention of this siege; neither does it bother to mention the rapidly dwindling Christian population of the town of Bethlehem.

In fact Christian Aid devotes almost the whole 71 pages into blaming Israel for almost every ill that has befallen the plighted Palestinians. It ignores historical facts by referring to "Palestinian Occupied Territory" and at some point even refers to the Palestinians as being indigenous to the region.

While Christian Aid has indeed proclaimed their abhorrence to Palestinian terrorism they seem unable, or refuse to portion hardly any of the blame on the people that have created it.

It refers continuously to the children of the Middle East and even has a picture gallery. With the exception of one picture of Iraqi children every single one of them shows Palestinian children. Most of the pictures are taken to provoke maximum sympathy by concentrating exclusively on only one side of the conflict. It shows Palestinian children next to Israel's security barrier, waiting at one of Israel's checkpoints or refers to them as children living in refugee camps.

The website claims that its focus is not only on the Bethlehem of the bible but on the contemporary situation in the Middle East

With this in mind one really needs to ask why Christian Aid does not have even one picture of an Israeli child. Both Jessica and Oran were tragic and innocent victims of Palestinian terrorism.

There is no outpouring of Christian Aid charity or words of grief for the hundreds of Israeli children whose lives have been shattered by terrorism. No poems, no pictures, no twinkling little stars in the sky to guide them as there was for Jessica and the Palestinian children.

Frankly I have immense respect for the millions of Christian's worldwide, especially the large numbers of them that support Israel, not only in its fight against terrorism, but respect the Jews for being the true people of the Bible and the real guardians of this Holy Land. Most of the drivel apologizing for Palestinian terrorism written in the 71 page report and on Christian Aids website is an insult, not only to Israel but to the millions of Christians around the world that support Israel wholeheartedly.

Sadly the message coming from Christian Aid this Christmas is a selective and sadly biased one.

Whatever happened to peace and goodwill to all men.

Angela Bertz - Israel


Reprinted by permission.