Cites Debt, Threats and Woes WIth Palestinian Officials
Bethlehem’s only Christian television station, The Nativity, has just one week left to broadcast.
"It is with great regret that we are informing you of our decision to close The Nativity — ‘Al-Mahed’ — television station," said its director and owner, Samir Qumsieh, "in spite of its inestimable service to the Church and to the existence of the Christian community in the Holy Land."
Qumsieh, a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, founded The Nativity in 1996. The broadcasts of this private channel are considered a voice of Christianity from the Middle East, and became a meeting place for Christians, Jews and Muslims. The station aired Masses and other Christian services, a weekly Christian program, news and entertainment, and Muslim prayers on Fridays.
It made a reputation during the siege of the Church of the Nativity in 2002, covering the event 24 hours a day for six weeks.
According to AsiaNews, Qumsieh has had frequent death threats for more than a year and the station has had to endure trouble from Palestinian authorities.
A valiant project
Vatican Radio on Saturday reported the upcoming closure of the station, noting that it was the only Christian station in the Holy Land, and that its broadcasts reached the West Bank, Jordan and Israel.
"It was a valiant project, an occasion for communication between Christians, Jews and Muslims," lamented the Vatican station.
According to the Italian daily Il Foglio, the decision was ultimately rooted in financial issues. For three years, the station has had an annual debt of $63,000. Qumsieh and his family invested the money to found the station.
"My brothers told me to stop this waste, but for me it would be very hard to close the television station because it is something that involved the whole community," he had told AsiaNews. "If we go off the air, there won’t be another voice like ours."
Qumsieh expressed his fear that the closing of the station would be emblematic of a definitive Christian exodus from the Holy Land.
The journalist noted that he is the only one of six siblings still in his homeland. And he foresees leaving as well, once the station has closed.