Approaching the Year 2000 

            As we prepare to turn the calendars at the close of another year, we at Palestine & The UN would like to take this opportunity to convey some thoughts and wishes to our readers.  This year, holidays and events are converging to make this annual special season even more momentous and significant for all.

1999 marks the end of a decade, the end of a century, and the start of a new era as January 1, 2000 symbolizes the beginning of a year taking us into a new millennium for humankind. Around the world, nations and peoples will be commemorating this epic turning point in time with countless festivities and celebrations.

At the same time, as we approach the New Year, the Muslim faithful have welcomed the holy month of Ramadan and will mark the end of this month of fasting with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr early in the year 2000.  Also, the Christian faithful in the international community will be celebrating Christmas 1999 in eager anticipation of Christmas 2000, when they will commemorate the 2000th Anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.  For the Palestinian people, all of these holidays and occasions are of the highest significance.    

            The Palestinian City of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, has commenced its millennial commemoration of Bethlehem 2000, a historical occasion that the Palestinian people are proud and honored to be hosting. On 6 December 1999, President Arafat inaugurated the Bethlehem 2000 celebrations in a ceremony at Manger Square by the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. These celebrations will continue until Easter 2001.  It is our strongest hope that the participation of so many pilgrims, tourists, and prominent figures from around the world in the religious and cultural events organized for this momentous occasion will reflect and promote a global vision of hope, peace, and reconciliation for humankind.

              It is our profound desire as well that the year 2000 will bring real progress to the Middle East peace process on all its tracks, with the ultimate achievement of a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace in the region.  The just resolution of the question of Palestine, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in all aspects is clearly a prerequisite for the creation of a durable and genuine peace in the Middle East. Let us therefore hope that the close of this century will mark the end of over a half-century of the denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination. In this regard, we hope and believe that the year 2000 will witness the day when the independent state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, is established, adding to our celebrations in the new millennium.  We are confident that Palestine will participate as a full Member State of the U.N. in the Millennial Summit to be held next September.

Happy holidays and best wishes from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, Members of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine and their families for a Merry Christmas, Blessed Ramadan, and a Happy, Prosperous, Healthy, and Peaceful New Year in 2000.