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Bethlehem Besieged: Stories of Hope in Times of Trouble.

Bethlehem Besieged: Stories of Hope in Times of Trouble. By Mitri Raheb. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004. viii and 157 pages. Paper. $13.00.

In times of crisis you can only tell stories. Stories can draw readers who stand at a safe distance into the crisis context. Stories can grip hearers in ways logical discourse does not.

In Bethlehem Besieged, Mitri Raheb tells stories of life under Israeli occupation. Raheb, a Palestinian Christian, is the pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and author of the book I Am a Palestinian Christian (Fortress, 1995). The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 contains five brief chapters describing life "under siege" during the Israeli army's incursion into Bethlehem as part of the military offensive called "Operation Defensive Shield," launched by Israeli Prime Minister Sharon in April 2002. Raheb describes his family's fear as soldiers forcefully entered and ransacked their house as well as the standoff between the army and Palestinian gunmen in the Church of the Nativity.

In Part 2, Raheb includes five chapters to describe "Life under Occupation" for himself and others. He is autobiographical in demonstrating how Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza--an occupation going back to 1967 and hence the longest one in our times--affects every aspect of life. For example, he poignantly describes how inadequate hospital care in Bethlehem and the delays of getting his father-in-law through military checkpoints contributed to his death within twelve days of reaching a Jerusalem hospital.

Part 3, "Glimpses of Hope," includes a number of "stories of hope in times of trouble"--for example, the Advent 2000 nonviolent march in Bethlehem of 2,500 people; the exhibition of local artists depicting "Christ in the Palestinian Context" prompted by Church of Sweden's request in November 2002; the "Bright Stars" programs now involving over 1,000 Palestinian children in art, music, sports, communication and environmental clubs; and the activities sponsored by the Lutheran Church through the International Center of Bethlehem--Dar al-Kalima School, the Cultural and Conference Center, and the Dar al-Kalima Health and Wellness Center.

Despite all the incredible hardships under military occupation, those who travel to Bethlehem in solidarity with the Palestinian Christians discover ongoing activities that sponsor hope among the people there and those who visit.

James L. Bailey, Professor Emeritus

Wartburg Theological Seminary

Dubuque, Iowa
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Author:Bailey, James L.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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