Saturday, 1 December 2007

National Geographic: Bethlehem

Image Copyright © Christopher Anderson-All Rights Reserved

The National Geographic brings us a photo essay by the perceptive lens of Christopher Anderson of scenes of life in Bethlehem. I suppose the timing of this photo essay is to coincide with Christmas since it also appears in the December issue of the magazine.

By the way, for those who don't know the etymological origin of Bethlehem, it's the Anglicized version of the Arabic "Beyt Lahm" literally meaning House of Meat.

The feature starts with this: The birthplace of Jesus is today one of the most contentious places on Earth. Israelis fear Bethlehem's radicalized residents, who seethe at the concrete wall that surrounds them. A well worded sentence that says it all.

The accompanying and lengthy article by Michael Finkel while not novel by any means, is a reasonably equitable summary of the situation in Palestine and Israel. Here's a paragraph which ought to resonate with all fair-minded readers: "It (Har Homa) used to be one of the last open spaces in Bethlehem, a pine-shaded hillside where shepherds tended their flocks, and had done so since biblical times. Construction began in 1997; the land was shaved flat and stacked with apartment towers. Not one Palestinian who owned acreage was compensated."

I would urge TTP readers to read the captions under each photograph...these too are worth a read. The juxtaposition of the photograph of a seven-year-old daughter of an Israeli settler all dolled up for Passover dinner, and the many images of poverty-stricken disenfranchised Palestinian children is just jarring.

National Geographic's Bethlehem

Note: A reader, Dan Soley notes that the actual etymological roots of the word "Bethlehem" is misplaced, originally mentioned in the Old Testament in Hebrew, and thus meaning "House of Bread" -- beit, meaning house in both Arabic and Hebrew, but "Lechem" means bread. Keeping to true etymological form, its older entry in our knowledge to this day, dates back to this meaning, rather than "lachm" - "meat" in
Arabic.