I didn't notice the outstanding Advent resource distributed by Kairos Palestine. I wish I had notified you of it earlier. But it is not too late to share Hind Khoury's introduction, which could stand alone as the most profound Christmas message from Palestine.
The miracle of Christmas makes us whole and fully human
It never ceases to amaze me how, every year, and as we get closer to Christmas, my burdened heart lightens up with joy and hope, as if through a miracle. I take heart from my fellow Bethlehemites, who over the ages, and through many a war and an occupation, have never failed to celebrate Christmas and to honor the newborn prince of peace and love.
My heart lightens in the shadow of the Apartheid Wall, at my doorstep in Bethlehem. The wall is a dark reminder of Israel’s occupation, an occupation that strangulates our lives, devours our land, and denies us the freedom to move and visit friends and family.
It reminds me that we simply aspire to live normal lives amidst the abnormality of colonization. We are submitted to this injustice, and to add insult to injury, our resistance is promoted as terrorism, and our victimhood as aggression.
This transformation is incomprehensible. How can the heart lighten up when our political prisoners linger in Israeli jails many of whom without legal process? How can it be lifted when our refugees wait in their camps only to be met with more frustration, denial, and further expulsion? More still, what light is there in a region that is seeing millions of new refugees, and that is being divided by wars?
As I renew my hopes with another upcoming Christmas, and as my heart is filled with the joy of giving and caring, I turn to my fellow human beings with a greater belief in their good will. Life looks promising and worth every bit of struggle and hard work, and I am reminded that I cannot live without Christmas.
Through this modest birth in Bethlehem, humanity is saved. The simple message of Christmas is the secret of life, meaningful and vital to our very existence. Once the simple truth is revealed to us, we know that we are in this world to contribute so that we have life and have it abundantly.
My prayer this Christmas is for many of us to capture this miracle of Christmas and to think of the poor, the homeless and the oppressed.
My prayer this Christmas is for thousands of hearts to commit to work diligently for a better world where justice has some respect and where efforts are invested to relieve pain and suffering rather than banal interests and power mongering.
My prayer this Christmas is for people to seek their true genuine calling. With so many old and new refugees in our dear Middle East, including the Palestinian refugees who simply want to and have the right to go back homes. With so many homeless, stranded parents, children and elderly, so many more dead and injured, so many homes demolished, so much hardship, so many societies torn apart, there is certainly some joy and hope to give, some peace to construct, some good will to show that we care and to prove we are truly human and deserving of life.
[Hind Khoury is a Palestinian Christian who worked for more than 20 years in the economic development of the Palestinian Occupied Territories. In 2005 she was appointed as Minister of Jerusalem Affairs for the Palestinian Authority and later the Palestinian Ambassador to France.]
Here is Sabeel's Christmas message, written by the Rev. Naim Ateek.
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke2:8).
“…after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem…” (Matthew 2:1).
Moreover, the shepherds were presumably Jewish, while the wise men were foreigners. Since the wise men came from “the East,” a number of New Testament scholars have suggested that they came from Arabia. There is a further theological significance here. Both Jews and Arabs came to offer their homage to the Christ child. When we stand before God, not only do our social differences lose their importance, our racial differences are also eradicated. God’s love for all people was being communicated regardless of social and financial status in society and regardless of racial background. Not only do rich and poor, Jew and Gentile stand before God as equals, there are also no political boundaries. All are welcomed and accepted. In other words, when we stand before the holy, our racism and bigotry should melt away and we should become authentically human recognizing the other as a brother and a sister.
One of our most disturbing issues during this Christmas season is the situation of the shepherds and farmers of today, namely, the Bedouins of the Negev who are citizens of Israel. The Israeli government plans to Judaize the Negev by forcibly relocating tens of thousands of Bedouins from their ancestral lands on which most of them have lived for hundreds of years, long before the state of Israel came into being. Israel wants to force them away from their lands and traditional way of life for the benefit of Israeli Jewish citizens. It is essentially a land grab.* Many local and international human rights organizations have condemned Israel’s actions and policies as discriminatory and in violation of international law.
[To read the entire message, go to this link]
I want to bring to your attention Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives.
As we are nearing the end of the 2013, we would like to officially announce our change of name from the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information to Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives.
IPCRI’s central objective today is to create “sustainable peace building” through projects that translate directly into positive changes in people’s lives. Instead of sitting behind closed doors and talking about how to solve the conflict, we are out there, creating more jobs in Palestine, and bringing down the psychological barriers that separate the two peoples. True peace building means acknowledging people’s rights to live in prosperity and dignity, and to where proper education, job opportunities, and freedom of movement are guaranteed. It also means that negative perceptions about the other group are transformed. Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives celebrates its 2014 objective to use innovation and creativity to challenge the status quo, and to implement projects that don't just "think", but "do".
A lot of good information in this blog by Jim Wall, Netanyahu's Flawed Vatican Charm Offensive. Wall gives well-deserved attention to an important new book by Scott Anderson, Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Anderson details an important historic episode, a successful propaganda campaign orchestrated by, among others, Aaron Aaronsohn, described by reviewer Alex Von Tunzelmann as “a Zionist agronomist of Romanian origin, who had settled in Palestine.” I won't repeat all of Wall's excellent points here, but I urge you to read the whole piece.
Filmmaker Lia Tarachansky grew up in a settlement. When the second Intifadah broke out in 2000 her family moved to Canada. There, for the first time she met Palestinians and "discovered" their history and learned why they were fighting Israel in the first place.
When she became a journalist, she returned to Israel to become the local correspondent for The Real News network. Returning for the first time to her settlement, she "discovers" the Palestinians next door as she travels the West Bank covering the Israeli military occupation.
In this film she meets with those who played a personal role in the events of 1948 and like her, "discovered" that which they had not only erased from their consciousness, but erased from the map. For years she tries to convince veterans of the 1948 that set off the conflict as we know it today to face the most difficult questions and dig deep into their memories. This is a film about the questions Israelis cannot ask, about memories that cannot be uncovered, and the history that's fighting to come to light.
It was then, in 1948, three years after the holocaust that the nascent Jewish state was created in a bloody war that led to two-thirds of the Palestinian people becoming refugees. Those who fled or were expelled to this day remain in camps throughout the Arab world, the West Bank and Gaza. In 2009 the Israeli government proposed a law that forbade mourning this history. A law that attempted to criminalize history itself.
You can view the trailer and meet some of the principle characters at the website for ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.
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