There’s scope for getting a message across about the modern day Holy Land in churches this Christmastide yet. We’re still in the church Christmas season till Jan 5th, Epiphany (the arrival of the Wise Men in Bethlehem), or in some churches right until Candlemas on Feb 2nd, when Jesus, according to the Bible, was presented to the priests at the temple in Jerusalem. Lots of scope there for tales of the inability today for Christians and Muslims from Bethlehem to travel to Jerusalem to see split up families or to worship.
Christian organisations have produced resources to get the message across at Christmas to mainstream churchgoers about the Christian prerogative to be conscious of life today in Bethlehem and the Holy Land and join the struggle for a just peace in the region.
The Greeenbelt Trust support the work of ICAHD, and have worked with ICAHD UK in their focus on Palestine in the last two Greenbelt festivals and for the next. Jeff Halper was a main speaker at Greenbelt 2009. Below are two links from their website:
A Christmas message from Bethlehem by Zoughbi-Zoughbi of Wi’am, which advocates, educates in and practices non-violence.
The Road to Bethlehem – trailer of a film by Leila Sansour, who directed the film Jeremy hardy vs the Israeli Army.
Amos Trust has worked for many years to highlight the plight of Palestinians. Download their Bethlehem Pack 2010 here
Below is a Christmas Message 2010 from Naim Ateek, of Sabeel, Jerusalem.
_eto guide our feet into the way of peace_ (Luke 1:79)
One of the beautiful images about peace comes from the song of Zechariah after the birth of his son, John the Baptist (Luke 1: 68-79). At the end of this song, Zechariah utters a prayer, _By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace._
During this Christmas Season and as 2010 draws to a close, we feel like the people in Isaiahas time, _ejustice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us; we wait for light, and lo there is darkness; and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among the vigorous as though we were dead. We all growl like bears; like doves we moan mournfully. We wait for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us_ (Is. 59:9-11). The level of frustration, fear, and violence has intensified both in Israel-Palestine as well as among the countries of the Middle East. We stand in grief and disappointment at the failure of all peace initiatives. Many of us hoped that President Obama would be able to set our two peoples _ the Israelis and Palestinians – on the course of peace. Regretfully, that has not happened so far. In the words of the song of Zechariah, our people continue to _sit in darkness and in the shadow of death._ In the midst of such despair and agony, our cry goes up to God for help.
The responsibility for achieving peace lies on both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. For peace to prevail, both need to sacrifice and compromise. It has become politically clear that the Palestinian leadership has already made a compromise by accepting the establishment of their state alongside the state of Israel, on 22% of the area of historic Palestine. The problem today lies with the unwillingness of the government of Israel to respect the demands of international law. The Israeli government values land more than peace, settlement building more than human rights. It uses peace rhetoric while daily it devours Palestinian land. Indeed, its feet are not guided by the way of peace. One is reminded again of the words of the prophet Isaiah, _The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths. Their roads they have made crooked; no one who walks in them knows peace_ (Is. 59:8).
We believe that the coming of Jesus Christ has shown us the way of peace; and he can guide our feet into the way of peace. Peace requires commitment and sacrifice. It must be built on truth, justice, and mercy. It must have love as its logic. It must not crush the enemy. It must see God in the face of the other, even the enemy. Whenever active resistance is required, it must employ nonviolent means in order to breakdown the injustice and oppression. Ultimately, in order for peace to endure, what we love for ourselves, we must love for others _ even our enemies. Only on such a basis, can peace be built.
What is required by the international community is to pressure the leaders of the state of Israel to walk the way of peace. All our people, Israelis and Palestinians, long and crave for peace. Indeed, it is within our reach. Let us continue to pray and work for its realization.
_Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God_ (Matt. 5:9).
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem
December 7, 2010