BETHLEHEM, West Bank, Dec 19, 1999 (Reuters) - Dressed in long black robes and wearing a baseball cap that says Jesus is Lord, American street preacher "Bobby Bible" walked around central Bethlehem on Sunday and warned about the coming of Jesus.
"On December 31 he will part the sky and come partially down," said the 60-year-old from Los Angeles, carrying a Prophecy King James bible and wooden cross as he walked around Manger Square in the town of Jesus's birth.
"Dead and living Christians are going to go up to meet him. It's going to be a catastrophe for you and wonderful for me.
"You will come under the wrath of God. You are going to get a spanking," the man, carrying a bag blaring recorded Christmas carols as the nearby mosque called Moslems to prayer, told a journalist as Palestinian passers-by paused and gaped at him.
As the millennium approaches in the Holy Land, the Palestinian Authority and Israel are on the lookout for apocalyptic groups or those advocating violence or mass suicide to hasten what they believe will be the coming of Jesus.
On Sunday, Palestinian police in Bethlehem detained briefly two Americans who said they were Seventh Day Adventists but acting on their own when they distributed pamphlets entitled "Earth's Final Warning."
"The title's a bit weird," a policeman in the town told Reuters. "We wanted to see if they have any connection to violent groups."
One of the Americans, Emile Spalitta, told Reuters he was also held overnight on Saturday. "They think I'm part of a doomsday cult," he said.
"But I only encourage suicide for homosexuals and child molesters," he said.
He said he was in Bethlehem as a "representative of God" and was calling Christians to gather at midnight on December 31 on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem to watch for Jesus.
"We are going to say 'Lord we are here, come and get us'," Bobby Bible said. "If he doesn't, I will go back to work, playing golf and preaching to the heathen of Los Angeles."
Bobby Bible said he started reading the Bible at 22 after his father died.
"I missed out on all the fun. Now I am a third-class eunuch. I don't fornicate or masturbate. I am a nerd," said the man, a Texaco oil pipe fitter when he is not preaching.
"I turn up at Democratic and Republican conventions, at homosexual parades or at movie awards to represent Christ."
Bobby arrived in Bethlehem on Thursday to prepare for the millennium and spends most of the day in the square.
He said he hasn't had any trouble with authorities and even went into the large mosque next to the square, where worshippers are marking the Moslem fasting month of Ramadan, and sat inside with them as they were reading the Koran.
"I removed my shoes. They looked at me and I looked at them. But they didn't do anything," he said.