In part two of a two part series, Paul Calvert spoke to Samya Hanosh a resident of Bethlehem and asked her what it was like growing up in this historic Biblical town.

Paul Calvert & Samya Hanosh evangelising in Bethlehem
Paul Calvert & Samya Hanosh evangelising in Bethlehem

"It's nice but it's also challenging sometimes, especially with the hard situation we live in. As you know, the political situation at the moment isn't very good; we face some difficulties but on the other hand it's a privilege to be living in Bethlehem where Jesus was born.

"As a Palestinian we have difficulties with the check points; the soldiers give us a hard time. It's difficult to reach other cities, for instance if I want to reach Ramallah or Hebron it will take me one day to reach there. That would be the most challenging thing.

"Jerusalem is only 7 km away but it's very hard to reach because firstly you need permission as a Palestinian to go; we cannot just decide to go tomorrow, we have to apply for permission, which entails receiving a form and queuing up and answering questions the soldier asks you. It also has to be a very specific reason why you want the permission to go to Jerusalem, like a medical reason or serious reason, not just 'I fancy shopping in Jerusalem today'.

"Because of the difficult situation many Christians are leaving the city. They are disappointed with the situation and see that life is much better in the west so they leave for a better life. But I feel personally it's good to have more Christians staying because the country needs more Christians to be here.

"I am from a Christian missionary family here in Bethlehem; they worked in the Baraka hospital, treating patients who had TB. After their stay in hospital my parents would go and visit those people in their houses and go around the villages to preach the Gospel to them.

"Many people came to know Christ because of their work which has been a real blessing. I myself have done evangelism here too. It's interesting and challenging, especially preaching the gospel and explaining how Jesus died on the cross; because everybody's different, for unbelievers and Moslems it's something very hard to do, so it has to be God who is doing it.

"I have lots of chances to speak to people here about my own relationship with God and my own experiences. It's been challenging for others too to get to know my own experience and learn from it but some people have asked me to pray for them to ask God to open their hearts to understand what I am talking about.

"I have done evangelism abroad and many people have been shocked to find out that I am from Bethlehem, the same city where Jesus was born. It's been nice to hear people's compliments but I feel that people don't realise how serious the situation is here and how much people here need lots of prayers from people abroad, to pray for Bethlehem and the peace here. Bethlehem definitely needs more missionaries to come and speak into the lives of the people here."

I asked Samya what it was like at Christmastime.

"People are happy; lots of people go shopping, many people decorate trees and decorate their homes with candles, which is nice. Every year they decorate manger square, with a Christmas tree, with lights and lots of decorations.

"With it being Bethlehem some people know the true meaning of Christmas other people don't, which is why it's so important to evangelise.

"My favourite memory of Christmas here is being in the choir, every year we presented Christmas songs and Christian songs. It was very nice to sing the Christmas songs and for the people to hear the Arab Christmas songs.

"Traditionally we don't have turkey, people here love chicken and they make stuffed chicken. We don't have Christmas pudding here either.

"It doesn't snow at Christmas time, maybe once or twice in January or February. You don't get the traditional Christmas card feeling here. Santa Clause does visit Bethlehem; when I worked in a children's home we had a very nice party for the children and Santa used to come with gifts for the children.

"My real prayer for Bethlehem over the Christmas period is that the leaders will be wiser over their decisions in leading the country and how they fund the government and that the situation will change, that God will move it." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.