Bethlehem: the House of the Wise Men a place where cultures meet.
What the city of Bethlehem is about to experience will be a particularly difficult Christmas. The lack of the many pilgrims and visitors, who especially at this time of year visited the city of Jesus, is doing a great deal of harm to the families of Bethlehem. The city is beginning to add decorations, lights are being put up along the streets of the town, but there is a different atmosphere from the one experienced in recent years.
Vincenzo Bellomo, project manager of Pro Terra Sancta in Bethlehem, explains very well the difficulties the city is experiencing: “Bethlehem lived 80-85% from tourism, from pilgrims. Many people suddenly found themselves without pay in a place where the state practically does not exist. As a result, sending their children to school, paying school fees and even access to basic necessities has become a tragedy in many families”.
This situation has made it even more evident to Pro Terra Sancta that work plays a fundamental role. Work, education and health care, the three pillars on which Pro Terra Sancta’s intervention in the Bethlehem area has always been based, will therefore be the foundations on which the new Dar Al Majus Community Home – The House of the Three Wise Men – is based. Bellomo explains it clearly: “The House of the Three Wise Men is a house of culture, a house of care and a house of promotion with work at its centre. At last we have found a place that contains our history, the history of our presence in Bethlehem at the service of others”. A few metres from the Basilica of the Nativity is this ancient and wonderful building that Pro Terra Sancta, thanks to the support of the Italian Episcopal Conference, is renovating. “It is a project that was born in the field, with the people – explains Vincenzo – the fruit of our daily attention, both the living stones, that is, the citizens and young people most in need of Bethlehem, and real stones because the stones are the ones that tell the story, that mark the millenary presence of the people as guardians in this place”.
The choice of the name falls on this three mysterious figures of the Nativity scene: the Three Wise Men, three wise men who followed the star in the direction of the cave where Jesus was born. As Bellomo explains, “no work or building had ever been named after the Three Wise Men before, although the arrival of the Three Wise Men is a very heartfelt feast for the local community in Bethlehem“. Every year on the 5th and 6th of January, the Custos of the Holy Land, accompanied by the scouts’ parade, enter the city and all the people lively celebrate the event, which in some way represents the end of the Christmas period for Catholics.
To name this house after the Three Wise Men means to recall this great story, but above all to focus attention on the encounter and the gift. “The Three Wise Men are people like us, like thousands of pilgrims, who are millions of people in the Holy Land, who came from far away to look for something, to look for that message and that cave,” says Vincenzo. But above all: “Each one of them has brought his art, his most precious gift and this is what we try to do every day with people in our work: we try to put our art, our skills, our weaknesses, our problems. We try to bring ourselves, the most precious thing we have”.
The House of the Three Wise Men is a place that wants to bring West and East together, a place for the Palestinians, for the local people, but it wants to be and will be a home for all those people who have found a world of beauty in Bethlehem as the Wise Men did 2000 years ago.