Thursday, November 10, 2005
Bethlehem issues call to the world
posted by: bethlehembloggers at 6:50 PM
We are happy to announce that the Open Bethlehem Project has been officially launched.

Here is their 'call to the world':

The Mayor of Bethlehem arrives in London today (Wednesday 9 November) to declare Bethlehem an open city and announce that his city is to issue a Bethlehem passport, open to anyone in the world.

The initiative is designed to transcend the imprisonment of his city by a combination of the illegal wall and militarised fences, with only two gates to the outside world.

The Mayor travels with Leila Sansour, Chief Executive of the campaign 'Open Bethlehem' who continues to Washington to launch the passport in the States. 'We recognise we have to act', says Dr Victor Batarseh, Mayor of Bethlehem. 'The passport is a way to ask people to step up to the plate. Invest in Bethlehem, bring projects to the city, or come and live among us - and you can also be a Bethlehemite.'

The current situation is grim. The walls and fences that encircle Bethlehem have turned this 4000 year old city into a prison for its 160,000 citizens. The number of tourists visiting Bethlehem has dropped from nearly 92,000 in 2000 to a mere 7,249 in 2004. In the last five years 9.3 per cent of the Christian population of Bethlehem has emigrated. Restaurants, shops and commercial outlets have shrunk and Bethlehem's economy is threatened.

The loss of Bethlehem to the world, says Leila Sansour, 'would have a devastating effect on the cause of open democracy in the Middle East, on Christianity worldwide, and on the relationship between Christian nations and other countries.'

The Open Bethlehem initiative will issue the passport to friends of Bethlehem as part of a campaign to encourage trade partnerships, investment, tourism, events, and to attract creative opportunities to the city. The core of its message is that Bethlehem is a city of openness and diversity, with a centuries old tradition of welcoming travellers, refugees and pilgrims from across the world.

Open Bethlehem already has the support of international figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former US President Jimmy Carter; the President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, the Archbishop of Jerusalem His Excellency Michel Sabah and many other influential leaders in their sectors. Dr Desmond Tutu says that 'it is unconscionable that Bethlehem should be allowed to die slowly from strangulation'.

Further information:

Patricia Orr/Ellen O'Donoghue. T. 020 7222 5510 M. 07889 140139

Open Bethlehem Westminster office, SW1P 2HP

What a brilliant initiative - we urge you to get involved in this project and to spread the word. A good start would be to leave a mesaage of peace on the wall by going here.
Anonymous This Week in Palestinian Blogs: Bethlehem Issues Call to the World
On behalf of Palestinian Bloggers, I extend my deepest condolences to the people of Jordan. We are all one in this. Those who died are our brothers and sisters, they are in our prayers, their memory will linger forever in our hearts. God bless the souls of those who have left us and help their families, God bless our Jordan. If you happen to be a resident of Jordan, please donate blood
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