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Tag: Bethlehem

Israel Has a Friend In Italy

The Italian Prime-Minister Silvio Berlusconi came to Jerusalem on Monday to meet with our fearless Prime-Minister, Mr. Binyamin Netanyahu. The visit was amiable and showed promise for Israel’s future as a welcome country in European eyes.


Bibi, in his Knesset remarks, said that

“Israel knows it has a great friend in Europe in Berlusconi.”

He also stated that

“this meeting will give momentum to relations between our two countries.”

“We appreciate you. We embrace you. We love you.”

said Netanyahu.
Silvio Berlusconi said he dreams of one day seeing Israel join the European Union as a full-fledged and influential member state.

“As long as I am one of the shapers of politics, my greatest dream is to include Israel among the European Union countries,”

said Berlusconi shortly after arriving together with top Italian ministers in a joint cabinet meeting with their Israeli counterparts.

Berlusconi informed that he only holds joint cabinet meetings with the most important European nations. He said his visit demonstrates that he views Israel as part of Europe.

Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the Italian delegation warmly, and announced that the Jewish country is lucky to have a friend like Berlusconi in a region traditionally unfriendly to the Jewish people and to Israel.

The visit kicked off with a gala dinner at the King David Hotel then the following morning Berlusconi held working meetings with Lieberman and Netanyahu, where Lieberman hoped to enlist Berlusconi’s help in applying stronger European pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program.

He also met with opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni, before visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem; about which he said the remembrance of what had happened in his and other European countries made him feel

“like someone punched me in the gut.”

A further joint cabinet session happened at the Prime Minister’s Office, where the premiers and ministers reviewed bilateral agreements and decided on areas of cooperation in the coming year, with an aim of deepening relations between Italy and Israel. A press conference was held afterward.

On Wednesday morning Berlusconi addressed the Knesset in a special session, and then opened an exhibition of seven original sketches from Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus. The Italian premier will end his visit in the Holy Land with a lunch with President Shimon Peres at the President’s Residence. From there he will go to Bethlehem for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Berlusconi will be leaving Israel on Wednesday evening.

Silvio Berlusconi is among Italy’s richest men, estimated to be worth $6.5 billion.
He won his third term as prime minister in 2008, two years after his center-right coalition was voted out.
Mr. Berlusconi, 72, owns a business empire that spans media, advertising, insurance, food and construction.
He is also the owner of Italy’s most successful football club, AC Milan, admits he has had cosmetic surgery, has fought off repeated corruption allegations, and has been dogged by a sex scandal.

Israel is lucky to have such a good friend in him.

What Would Jesus Do, Really?

As it stands, it is very taboo for Jews to visit the Temple Mount. When Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon went up there in 2000, it caused the second Intifada. Jews visiting the ruin, which houses the Dome of the Rock mosque, has been the cause of Arabs rioting in the past. And there have been halachic rulings by orthodox rabbis, forbidding Jews to visit the site. However non-Muslims, during the morning on certain days of the week can scale the bridge from the Old City and visit the other side of the Kotel – but alas are forbidden to pray.

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANSOfficially, there really is no plan set in stone for visiting there, like there is in Hebron, at the Cave of Machpelah; and such a plan would have a set time for Jewish prayers, however the Islamic Christian Society in Support of Jerusalem says that this would be unacceptable. However, they have yet to explain their reasoning.

If Israel were to give East Jerusalem to the Palestinians, Jews and probably other non-Muslims would be kissing away their dream of holding religious communion at the Temple Mount. Additionally, Christians should fear what would happen if the Church of the Holy Sepulchre became under Palestinian control. Putting the threat of violence on the State of Israel aside, religious tolerance would obviously become enforced in Jerusalem’s Old City.

In Bethlehem, during the Intifada, PLO terrorists fled to the Christian Church, which is the scene of the Nativity for Christians. They held the monks hostage, stole valuables, left feces all over, starved the Christians and all but ruined the site.

In Jerusalem, Muslims built themselves a mosque taller than the holiest Christian edifice in the city, just to undermine it. They built toilets overhanging it and they broke through a wall into a couple of storerooms of the Church, and occupied them. The PLO refused to return the rooms, until after much protest, Arafat finally gave in.

Religious Christians who would like to see Israel lose control of East Jerusalem and holy sites in the West Bank must be out of their mind, unless they are thinking of converting to Islam.

Bethlehem Celebrates Brightest Christmas In Years

Bethlehem Celebrates Brightest Christmas In YearsThe Palestinian city of Bethlehem, located a few kilometers south of Jerusalem, may be celebrating its best holiday season in years. Reports from merchants and hotel reservation desks say that the number of pilgrims and tourists visiting the city of Jesus’ birthplace are at least 50% more than in 2006. Times haven’t been good for this biblical city made so popular by the event that supposedly took place about 2010 years ago, and tourism has been a far cry from what it was in prior years; especially in the “heady” years following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1994. The city that used to see many thousands of foreign visitors converge on it during Christmas time became as still as the above words in the immortal poem by Father Philip Brooks in 1865.

Following the beginning of the Second Intifada Palestinian uprising in September 2000, foreign visits took a nose dive; and tourism was further complicated when a number of hard-line Palestinian militants held up in the Church of the Nativity for days before finally surrendering to Israeli army troops who were surrounding Manger Square. Once boasting a large Christian population, Bethlehem is now predominately Muslim. With the main source of income for the city being tourism, the city had fallen on hard times, and has only begun to show signs of recovery in the last couple of years. During the first few years following the historical handshake between Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the U.S. White House Lawn, Arafat himself and his wife, Sulha (a Christian) attended Christmas Eve midnight masses held in the Church of the Nativity. That all changed following the start of the Second Intifada when Arafat became a virtual prisoner in his West Bank Ramallah. headquarters.

To make matters worse, the Palestinian Authority has now been split into two parts, one in Gaza and under the control of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and the other in the West Bank under the control of P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas. Following some improvement in relations between Israel and Abbas’ Palestinian segment, tourism to Bethlehem has begun to improve, much to the relief of Bethlehem’s merchants, many of whom have shops in the center of town not far from Manger Square. Many of the items they sell are exclusively tailored for foreign Christian pilgrims including religious motifs carved from olive wood, jewelry and amulets, carpets and clothing with religious and other logos and slogans connected with the historical legend of the town. As Christmas is the most important time of the year for them, Bethlehem merchants have to bank heavily on a large influx of visitors to tide them through the lean months until summer when tourism again picks up for a while.

For those who want to purchase them, Palestinian flags, pictures of P.A. Authority and Charismatic Arab World leaders, and other nationalistic mementoes are also available.

One of the better hotels in Bethlehem, the Jacir Palace Intercontinental, reported that they are nearly full for the first time in years. “Yes, thank God, we have something to smile about this year”, said Farid, one of the hotel’s reception employees. Concerning what will be happening in the future, “it’s anybody’s guess” said Samir, another hotel employee. And rightly so, as current fighting between Israeli and Palestinian forces in Gaza could well spill over into the West Bank, including Bethlehem. Although the city of Christ’s birth has had fewer problems than other West Bank cities, including Ramallah, Nablus, and Jenin, the situation there during the period immediately after the uprising in September, 2000 was very unpleasant, and the Church of the Nativity suffered considerable damage in the wake of its takeover by Palestinian militants.

Israeli border checkpoints have tried to make it easier for pilgrims to come and go this year as a good will gesture to President Abbas. Still, it isn’t like walking into the Old City in Jerusalem, which for many pilgrims has been an alternative Christmas season destination following the 2000 Palestinian uprising.

In any event, Christmas 2007 does seem to be much better for the citizens of Bethlehem, and is much improved over previous years. And for those who so much depend on this annual inflow of visitors, and foreign currency, they can only hope for the best.

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