Palestine (MNN) Final Friday, Bethlehem Bible Schools spring semester got here to a sudden cease as COVID-19 was found amongst vacationers and the entire city was quarantined.
Bethlehem is usually described as peaceable in Christmas songs. It’s once more this week, however not for a superb purpose.
Palestinian and Israeli officers agreed, the city ought to be quarantined. Mercy Aiken, a volunteer on the school, says, Friday evening, we obtained phrase that the checkpoint was going to be closed that folks stroll by to go to Jerusalem. And so a bunch of individuals left in the course of the evening.
All church buildings, mosques, and gathering locations have been closed. The Church of the Nativity was closed and sanitized. Residents have been inspired to remain indoors.
Aiken says that she herself solely went out to get meals. She felt conspicuous strolling by the quiet streets, figuring out that it was People who introduced the virus within the first place. If you’re a foreigner strolling round, you don’t wish to add extra stress, however it’s not like there’s lots of people out on the road. You would possibly see one or two automobiles going by a minute. It’s very, very, very low-key, the streets are just about empty.
Aiken describes town as extra peaceable than in any other case. One road within the city, close to the separation wall, usually options protests and political demonstrations. In the course of the lockdown, Aiken noticed kids enjoying on this space.
Not solely that, however residents are dealing with the outbreak with nice solidarity. Aiken relates this story: I simply noticed, about an hour in the past, a automobile drive down the road that was praying. It was blasting prayers from its loudspeakers. And it had an enormous orthodox image of Mary and Jesus. They’d an enormous sensor and so they have been burning incense. They have been driving round Bethlehem filling it with incense and, and singing prayers. So I believe the city has come collectively in a very stunning method.
Impacts of the lockdown
So how lengthy will the lockdown final? Aiken says, This was agreed on by the Palestinian Authority and Israel. So, it was a mutual settlement that Bethlehem is mainly locked down for 30 days. And I suppose on the finish of 30 days, we are going to discover out if the virus has been contained sufficient so that folks can journey as soon as once more. Aiken says many within the metropolis are anxious concerning the financial affect of such a quarantine for the reason that metropolis’s financial system is so reliant on tourism.
Aiken needed to get different volunteers to the airport quickly after the lockdown. On the way in which, she was stopped by troopers who advised them nobody was allowed to depart Bethlehem in any respect. However they tried a distinct route and obtained the volunteers on their airplane. Aiken says not even the troopers all appear to know what’s going on.
Aiken says the city expects to have a full curfew quickly. Yesterday, we discovered that there at the moment are 26 circumstances of the coronavirus that had been recognized within the West Financial institution: 25 in Bethlehem. . . . Most people in Bethlehem that had been recognized with it are Christian, and so they’re a part of the evangelical Christian neighborhood right here. So please preserve them in your prayers.
The Christian neighborhood in Bethlehem
Bethlehem Bible School itself is sort of fully abandoned aside from Aiken and a few college students. Individuals are attempting to make money working from home, however the school and college students are dealing with a semester abruptly canceled.
This can be a time for Christians, Aiken says, to exhibit knowledge, management, religion, service, and look after neighbors. And that’s undoubtedly what I’ve seen inside the Christian neighborhood right here. Pray that Christ can be glorified by his Church in Bethlehem.
Aiken has no plans to depart herself, regardless of questions on it from family members. The virus, she factors out, has cropped up in all places on the planet, together with the USA. For now, she is going to hand around in the empty, quiet metropolis the place Jesus was born.
Bethlehem skyline from the Church of the Nativity. (Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)