No, not a spelling error; and pretty appropriate. The word ‘bedlam’ which is synonymous with ‘confusion’ and noise comes from the ancient Bethlehem Royal Hospital in Kent, UK, one of the earliest institutions to deal with mental illness. So what’s it got to do with Christmas?

If there is madness in the body politic it is certainly evident in Western attitudes to the Middle East. Take Christmas: Shepherds, Wise Men, Jesus, Mary, Joseph. For a start, Joseph as a good Jew, albeit from Galilee, wouldn’t be allowed into Bethlehem, so Jesus would  be born in a field outside. And the shepherds wouldn’t have been allowed out, so, no ‘flocks by night’.

On the other hand, if Joseph had managed to sneak in through the back road, there’d be plenty of room in the inn because tourists have been so frightened off by Israeli propoganda they don’t stay – a quick coach trip to Manger Square & the Church of the Nativity, then back to ‘safe’ Jerusalem. I’ve been in Bethlehem  4 times and stayed in hotels for many nights. I’ve walked the street in the daytime rush and at 5am. It’s safer than some parts of USA!

Can we begin to regard Palestinians as equals, as people with rights, with dignity, with gifts. And can we find ways to rescue Israel and the worldwide Jewish community from the dead end into which Israel-US-UK policies are driving them?  By the way – When I write ‘we’ I do mean we; forget the body politic; many of them should be in Bedlam.

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