A Methodist community gallery in Sheffield, northern England, has highlighted the plight of modern Bethlehem in its Christmas art show.
The art exhibition has brought together artists to think about the seasonal messages of the city of Bethlehem — both the historic and religious importance of Bethlehem for Christians, but also the modern impact of Israeli occupation on an international icon.
Reverend Ric Stott, creative arts advisor for Sheffield Methodist District, said in an interview with local community news organization Sheffield Live that “the footage we’ve seen from Palestine — especially over the last year — has been really heartbreaking.” The video of that interview is posted above.
The harshness of news from Palestine during 2014 had, says Stott, inspired him to ask artists contributing to the 35 Chapel Walk art space’s seasonal exhibition to think beyond the images of Bethlehem usually presented in connection with Christmas.
As he points out, the Christian story of Christmas itself is not an unambiguously “nice” one, centered as it is on a “heavily pregnant woman” who has to “give birth in a cave amongst the animals.”
The artists’ responses to Stott’s call include images of the Virgin Mary and an infant Jesus separated by jagged lines — reminiscent of Israel’s wall in the West Bank — and of the Christian nativity scene surrounded by barbed wire.