John TyrrellOn his blog, Birmingham’s John Tyrrell records that in 2004 a group of Birmingham councillors went on an unofficial, privately funded fact-finding visit to Bethlehem. The party included Cllr Phillip Murphy, Cabinet Member for Housing, Mick Rice, Cabinet Member for Community Affairs, Cllr Susannah McCorry, Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health, Cllrs Shah Jehan, Fiona Williams, Cllr Ansar Ali Khan and – taking the movie – Cllr John Tyrrell, Cabinet Member for Transportation and Street Services.

It was uncertain whether the visitors would get in due to “military operations” taking place. The day before, they had been in Jerusalem when a bus was blown up by a police officer from Bethlehem. As a result the army went in to blow up his house home to a dozen or so others. This video included a visit to the ruins and interview with friends and family and makes memorable viewing. John writes:

Israeli settlements built on site of pine forest Israeli settlements being built on the site of a pine forest

“The film begins with a drive through the narrow streets of Bethlehem to the Church of the Nativity. The commentary is by George Rishmawi, then working as a guide for the Holy Land Trust. Our driver is Isa (Jesus). We go inside the church where age old murals are peppered with gunshot holes. We met President Yasser Arafat earlier that day in January 2004 who had invited us to stay for dinner when we learned that we may not be able to get to Bethlehem, but we decided to go anyway.

“In Bethlehem we see the electrified barbed wire, since replaced by a huge concrete wall and then buildings shelled by Israeli gunships and artillery. We visited a home to see locally made Re Israel & Palestine media smallerartifacts, speak to the owner of the empty Bethlehem Hotel and end the day at a well-known restaurant in a Bedouin tent.” (Ed) The man opposite listed several tragic occurrences which had led a local youngster to the path of violence and called for truthful reporting after describing the media’s comparative lack of concern for Palestinian deaths.