British clergyman bans ‘Bethlehem’ carol


LONDON (JTA) — A British vicar banned the Christmas carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem" from his services following his pilgrimage to the West Bank city.

The Rev. Stephen Coulter, who said the carol’s lyrics don’t reflect the current reality in Bethlehem, attacked Israel’s actions in the West Bank, primarily the security wall and the roadblocks.

Coulter, from the south of England, told the British newspaper The Times that he was "shocked at how the Arab-Israeli conflict that has raged around the West Bank town has decimated its population, wrecked its economy and hit tourism."

In a mixture of reality and myth, Coulter told his community that his Bethlehem guide told him that he sometimes has to wait up to three hours at roadblocks and added that the guide’s wife and child were not allowed to leave the town.

Coulter also highlighted unsubstantiated reports that "the Israeli government was prohibiting the movement of communion wine from Bethlehem this Christmas because that, too, was deemed a security risk."

He added that "’The Christians we stayed with consider themselves descendants of the very shepherds who were keeping watch over flocks by night 2,000 years ago.

"Can you imagine how they feel being stopped by security guards, Jews from Russia, who have been in the country for just five years and who have all the freedoms denied those who have been there for centuries?"

Coulter’s remarks have drawn criticism from another priest, George Pitcher, who is calling on the public not to mix Christmas carols with politics. 

Recommended from JTA