A new side to the holy city of Bethlehem

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Bethlehem is best known for being the hometown of King David and the birthplace of Jesus Christ. (photo: Efesenko / Getty Images)
Written towards the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is hope for a return to a new miracle afoot: a renaissance of Palestinian culture and coolness.

By Richard Morgan  | BBC  | April 7, 2020

…Bethlehemites have rewritten their narrative by reappropriating and reclaiming their uncertain, uneasy lives. ‘Tuz’ is far from apathetic resignation; rather a daring declaration of persistence along with the canny awareness both that art is the most seductive form of violence and that living well is the best revenge.

The Singer Café is like a lot of hipster haunts you might find in the nearby cosmopolitan corners of Israel: a family sharing a shakshuka brunch; a European traveller writing a screenplay on his laptop; and a dating couple getting to know each other over a sumptuous mezze platter. There’s striking local art on the walls, and the cafe’s whimsical, upbeat vibe is epitomised by a sign that reads “more espresso, less depresso”.

But Israelis are by and large forbidden by their government from visiting this particular oasis of cosy calm. That’s because Singer is in the suburb of Beit Sahour on the walking-distance outskirts of Bethlehem – itself on the outskirts of Jerusalem – in the occupied West Bank, which has been controlled by the Israeli military since the Six Day War of 1967. Singer serves arguably the best espresso con panna in any conflict zone on the planet.

Known for being the hometown of King David and the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the biblical-but-still-bustling little town of Bethlehem has a new miracle afoot: a renaissance of Palestinian culture and coolness. Like the iconic red soles of Christian Louboutin shoes, Bethlehem has developed a pocket of fashionable finesse even under Israeli occupation – so much so that the 22-nation Arab League, under a Unesco programme, declared Bethlehem to be 2020’s capital of Arab culture.

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