As the Holidays approach, Every years Bethlehem prepares itself to celebrate, Bethlehem Mayor, Adv. Anton Salman, said in an interview with PNN that Bethlehem’s message in the glorious Christmas holidays this year will be a message of hope for a better future and a message of peace, stability, freedom, equality and mutual respect. Bethlehem is the capital of Christmas and the birth place of the message sent by God almighty to earth that Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth. Thus the message of Bethlehem is always a message of peace and hope for the achievement of peace, freedom, human dignity and justice.
The mayor of Bethlehem said that the delegation of people and personalities of Bethlehem that will meet with the US Vice President who will be visiting Bethlehem will focus on one question, Why our people must suffer all these years. Why does the US administration support the Israeli side in their violations and their rejection of all the peace process efforts accepted by Palestinians and presented by the world. Why the Palestinian people did not achieve their freedom and independence like other nations.
He added that he hopes that the US Vice President and the American Administration will give answers as the Christmas holidays approach, especially on the question of whether the Palestinian people have the right to to be free or must they continue to be under an occupations which violates all international laws.
Salman stressed that in light of the circumstances and the political situation in which we live in, our people have affirmed through the years of our long national struggle their willingness to continue the struggle. We passed through several stages and every stage a peace initiative was put forward. Unfortunately, these initiatives went in vain and without results or real progress on the ground, This because they are presented through the US perspective of the conflict which is in the Middle East which is bias towards the Israeli side.
He stressed that the Palestinian message to the US vice president and to the American administration is to change from the way it works which is by forcing pressure on the Palestinian leadership to implement an American vision that is contrary to our national vision.
In preparation for the celebrations of the Christmas holidays, the Mayor of Bethlehem said that almost all the preparations are completed. In November, the Bethlehem Municipality began preparing the cradle of Christ and preparing it to equate its religious, spiritual, Historical and touristic value.
“The Bethlehem Municipality started preparations this year before usual, so that things will go smoothly, without pressure and exhaustion for the staff,” he said, adding that Bethlehem is wearing a new suit to start the festivities, which will start with lighting the Christmas tree in the presence of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah.
The lighting of the tree will be on 2/12, after which various events will be launched including opening the Christmas market, while on Monday 5/12 the building of the Christmas grotto sponsored by the State of Malta, and it will be placed in the courtyard of the Nativity with the participation of the officials from the State of Malta.
He also noted that on 15/12 there will be a market and the International Christmas Festival in Al-Najma Street under the name of Santa neighborhood which will be accompanied by international participation of Cypriot and Italian groups that will celebrate the evening. He added that they are expecting the participation of an international star on 22/12. He explained that the celebrations will be held on 24/12, where the official reception and the Midnight Mass will be held.
Salman stressed that the municipality has been working hard pointing out that they are currently working on 6 projects, the most important project is the building a road to Wadi Msalam. He said that we resorted to our local community to raise the necessary funds to implement the project and we hope that within 6 months we will finish the road. We thank Bethlehem residents for their belonging and their donations to complete the street to be parallel and may be an alternative to Al-Mahad road to reach Beit Sahur.
He also noted that the construction of the winter waters in Al-Jamal valley has been completed with a length of 360 meters. During the past few days, the project went well. He added that there is a project to build tourist toilets in the peace center which will be completed within ten days besides the unit of toilets to the central station because the existing units are small and insufficient especially as more tourists visit.
The mayor also pointed out that the municipality is working on organizing the entrances to the central market through opening new roads for it. Now they will be opening new gates and organizing traffic within the market.
He said that the Municipality is building a parking lot at the Bethlehem Water Supply & Sewerage Authority junction between Beit Sahour Street and al-Najmah Street.
On his recent tours to a number of countries, the Mayor said that his Chilean visit to participate in the conference of Palestinian communities in South America was one of the most important as through communication with them, they tried to attract support to the municipalities and so far nothing has been achieved, but they hope that in the near future will help the municipalities in their visits as he visited Chile with the Mayors of each of Beit Jala and Beit Sahur cities.
On his visit to the United States, Salman said he had met with USAID and ANERA, He said that they promised to give assistance in adopting Bethlehem’s municipal projects. He hoped that they would help finance the bridge project in Beit Sahour Street and other vital projects in Bethlehem.
At the end of his speech, the mayor of Bethlehem addressed the citizens as Christmas approaches and said, “We hope and we are confident that you will be part of the development of Bethlehem, explaining that the city has a special atmosphere especially in the festive season, stressing that it is important that the city remains clean through everyone’s cooperation to present Bethlehem as a clean city and a green city, calling for planting trees, he said that trees will be distributed in order to be planted in various areas and streets and neighborhoods of the city.
He expressed his hopes that the city of Bethlehem will be presented as a tourist city with a distinction that will attract tourists and he finally stressed the importance of presenting citizen of Bethlehem as cultured and educated people who contribute to its development and prosperity.