Residents of the Bethlehem area, West Bank, gather to commemorate those lost in last years Gaza War and stand in solidarity with those still living under seige.At 4:30 this afternoon residents of Bethlehem and the surrounding towns gathered to commemorate the 1,500 Palestinians that lost their lives this time last year, and stand in solidarity with the residents of Gaza, who continue to live under siege from the Israeli military; a situation that has continued since June 2006. The vigil was held in Manger Square, bordered with The Church of the Nativity to the south and the Mosque of Omar to the north.
After a brief introduction given by a young girl from the town, those in attendance received a call from Dr. Haidar Eid, from inside the Gaza Strip. Dr. Eid is an associate professor in the Department of English Literature, AL-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip and also works as a grass roots activist. Dr. Eid spoke of the necessity of the ending of the siege on Gaza, and thanked those in attendance, both local residents of the Bethlehem municipality and internationals alike.
Following Dr. Eid was Dr. Victor Batarseh, mayor of Bethlehem. Dr. Batarseh spoke in a similar vein, endorsing the support of the Gazans and reminding all to keep the plight of their plight in their thoughts.
Today was a day to commiserate the loss of vast numbers of children in Gaza, but also to celebrate the beauty of youth and be hopeful for their future. Children from Al-Ruwad Centre located in Aida refugee camp treated the crowd to a performance, and then followed by a speech by spokesman for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, Awad Abu Swai.
It was again the turn of the children to take centre stage. As a local boy, no more than 11 years old read the names of those children killed by the Israeli military during the Gaza War last December and January, more children were assisted in climbing the small trees in the square, decorated still will lights from the Christmas festivities, to hang BDS movement stickers bearing the names that were simultaneously read out.
Four of the children from the earlier performance piece sang songs, as others walked amongst the crowd handing out stickers and candles for the vigil.
Dr. Abdul Fattah Abu Saror, director of Al-Ruwad Centre, gave the final speech, once again thanking all in attendance and wishing everyone a happy new year. As the music started to play five young men spontaneously broke out in dabka dancing to mark the end of the vigil.