One of the most intriguing sites in the Holy Land isn’t a biblical site at all. Stars & Bucks sits on a street down the hill from the Church of the Holy Nativity in Bethlehem. It is an obvious knock-off of the coffee giant: similar design, similar look, and not bad coffee either. (Cappuccino’s are served in a thick paper cup featuring the brand “Stars and Bucks”).
Ironically, the store is a chain of coffee shops in Palestine. There is one in Ramallah and one in Bethlehem. Are they expanding? I do not know. But I do know that they are likely immune from any Seattle attorney and a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter. They pour on with impunity. And it is always a photo-op moment as my groups get their pictures snapped in front of the outlet.
It is not (of course) a biblical site; it is a spoof of an American site. But it means more that than too.
There are two different worlds in the Holy Land. There is the world of the Israelis. They embrace US franchises and brands. There are real Pizza Huts, KFCs, and McDonald’s everywhere in Israel. All kosher, of course. (And Starbucks did try to come to the Holy Land, but it bombed.) This is the New Israel where I spend the majority of time on our tours. It is modern and shiny. It has freeways, five-star hotels and high-rise buildings. It protects its citizens as best it can. It is a modern country that competes in the world’s market in just about any arena. It is as impressive a country as it is beautiful.
And then there is the other world within the concrete separation wall that seals off the Palestinians from the Jewish state. Poverty is an issue. Both Muslims and Christians try to make a living within their walled country, but it has to be hard. They are shut off from any opportunities in the larger cities of Israel. Their government has let them down. Some would blame the Israeli government too. It is a consuming sad saga that the world knows only too well.
The separation wall works. For the most part, it has kept terrorists out of Israel. (Go here for viewpoints.) But it has also kept promise and opportunity for young men and women out of Palestine. They are stuck behind a hideous concrete curtain without many future prospects. In this way, maybe Stars & Bucks is a cruel joke on them. It is as close as most of the Palestinians will ever get to a wider world of opportunity and advancement.
That is a lot to see in a small coffee shop in Bethlehem. I stop there every time I am there to buy a cup of Cappuccino and think about where I am. I am standing only a few hundred yards and 2000 years downhill from the birthplace of the Risen Savior of the World. He crosses boundaries and tears down walls… Yes, eventually all walls will fall before him.
Please Lord, this one next.
In the meantime, I pray for the Peace of Jerusalem and I pray for the future…a peaceful future…for the Palestinian people.
And if anyone would want to come with me the next time I’m in Bethlehem, I’ll buy them a cup of coffee. For sure.