By J. Taylor Basker
It is now December as you read this, but before Veteran’s Day in early November the Christmas items and commercials began to inundate us. The irony of celebrating the birth of the baby Jew, Jesus, in Bethlehem, while Israel is bombing Gaza killing children, imprisoning children in Bethlehem as well as other Palestinian biblical cities, is lost on Americans obsessed with holiday shopping. Black Friday sales began weeks early but Black Fridays for people in Gaza mean death and destruction as the IDF bombs and shoots the non-violent protesters every Friday.
Meanwhile the people of Bethlehem under Israeli occupation are deprived not only of their freedom but also their water. People may want to add plastic water bottles in their Crèches as gifts the Magi are bringing to the Babe of Bethlehem.
They are forbidden to dig wells beyond a certain depth. This very dry and hot summer has worsened the situation. There are severe limitations on extraction of water. Palestinians cannot have permits to dig wells beyond a certain depth, and the right itself to extract water from the ground is subject to severe limitations, thus they are forced to use an obsolete inefficient secondary water system that loses more than 40% of the water and what they receive is often irreparably polluted. Water is distributed every 20 days and people are forced to install poor quality water tanks on their roofs, many of which are rusted and oxidized, leading to dangerous sanitary and hygienic conditions. This has affected many babies and children in Bethlehem who suffer diseases caused by contaminated water. The Pro Terra Sancta Association has begun a project to replace defective collection tanks for poor families of the old city in Bethlehem where the problem is greater, helped by the Caritas Antoniana of Padua. They install solar panels, boilers and water tanks with the aim of making homes habitable. Perhaps this project in Bethlehem is worthy of Americans’ holiday attention, as well as Amazon surfing.