Last Friday, Bethlehem Bible College’s spring semester came to a sudden stop as COVID-19 was discovered among tourists and the whole town was quarantined.
Bethlehem is often described as peaceful in Christmas songs. It is again this week, but not for a good reason.
Palestinian and Israeli officials agreed, the town should be quarantined. Mercy Aiken, a volunteer at the college, says, “Friday night, we got word that the checkpoint was going to be closed that people walk through to go to Jerusalem. And so a bunch of people left in the middle of the night.”
All churches, mosques, and gathering places were closed. The Church of the Nativity was closed and sanitized. Citizens were encouraged to stay indoors.
Aiken says that she herself only went out to get food. She felt conspicuous walking through the quiet streets, knowing that it was Americans who brought the virus in the first place. “If you are a foreigner walking around, you don’t want to add more stress, but it’s not like there’s a lot of people out on the street. You might see one or two cars going by a minute. It’s very, very, very low-key, the streets are pretty much empty.”
Aiken describes the city as more peaceful than otherwise. One street in the town, near the separation wall, often features protests and political demonstrations. During the lockdown, Aiken saw children playing in this area.
Not only that, but citizens are facing the outbreak with great solidarity. Aiken relates this story: “I just saw, about an hour ago, a car drive down the street that was praying. It was blasting prayers from its loudspeakers. And it had a big orthodox picture of Mary and Jesus. They had a big sensor and they were burning incense. They were driving around Bethlehem filling it with incense and, and singing prayers. So I think the town has come together in a really beautiful way.”
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SOURCE: Mission Network News, Kevin Zeller
CALL TO ACTION
- Ask God to help Christians in Bethlehem live out their faith in Jesus during the outbreak.
- Pray that the quarantine doesn’t last long so that the economy of Bethlehem doesn’t suffer.
- Pray that Jesus would bring lasting peace to the city where He was born.