Book of the Month 2

Pour l’amour de Bethléem: Ma ville emmurée

For the Sake of Bethlehem:
My enwalled city

By Vera Baboun

Bayard Publishing
Number of pages: 255, cost: USD 15.9 Euros

“From suffering, learn to bring forth grace”

Vera Ghattas Baboun was the first Palestinian woman to become mayor of Bethlehem in 2012. She holds a Master’s Degree in African-American literature, but this is not her greatest merit or reason for praise. It is quite another thing that invites the admiration of this Palestinian Christian woman who does not give up. In her book Pour l’amour de Bethléem: Ma ville emmurèe, Vera Baboun opens the doors to the “walled-off life” of the Palestinians in Bethlehem. She opens this closed place without having the keys – but yet she offers us a path of freedom, of veracity without compromise.

Vera Baboun saw her life turned upside down in 1980, when her husband was arrested by the Israelis and then killed. She subsequently made it a rule of her life to take new paths and to meet three challenges: to fight for her country, for her city, and for women. Her heroine – about whom she learned in the stories her grandfather had told her – is Shéhérazade, who accomplished her destiny through courage, education and wisdom. She wants to bring this fight to all the women of the world. Like the princess of One Thousand and One Nights, Vera Baboun uses storytelling in her relationships, because words carry three values: wisdom, authority, and compassion. Thus, Vera seeks in each woman the traces of princess Sheherazade, so that each one may be able to defend her Arab woman culture and her values in a world of men.

The promotion of women and of widespread education, mainly in the poorest areas, as well as the struggle for citizenship for all confessions and minorities, are all ways to freedom, liberation, justice, and peace for those who share the same land in the Middle East. Vera Baboun knows that the walls that enclose her city risk locking up the inhabitants in themselves, turning them into exiles from within. The more we are locked up, the more we radicalize. Vera wants to break those walls. In her confinement, she manages to address the whole of humanity.
“Will the world be able to live in peace as long as the city of peace is immured?”

Vera Baboun delivers a powerful testimony to the reality of daily life in Bethlehem and Palestine. For the Sake of Bethlehem: My enwalled city is a remarkable book, and beyond that an incredible encounter with an admirable woman who is a role model for the younger generations.

On May 2017, Vera Baboun received Le Prix littéraire de l’Œuvre d’Orient for her book in a celebration that took place in the Church De Notre Dame in Paris.

Father Frederic Fagot