True liberation – That is Christmas!

Palestine Update 319

 “Scar of Bethlehem”
Video: Banksy releases artwork

“A new piece of art by Banksy unveils the scene of the manger of Jesus, placed in front of the Israeli separation wall, scarred in a star shape by a mortar shell. Dubbed the “Scar of Bethlehem”, the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph are backlit through damaged concrete, chiseled pockmarks exploding out from a gaping hole in four directions to approximate the Christmas Star.

The work is installed at Banksy’s Walled-Off Hotel, where all rooms overlook a concrete section of the barrier built by Israel to cut off the occupied West Bank from Israeli territory. “Love” and “peace” are respectively graffiti tagged in English and French on the artistic installation’s concrete blocks, while three large wrapped presents are at the forefront of the scene”.
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True liberation – That is Christmas!

A friend of mine messaged me ten days before Christmas. She asked: “How can we celebrate in the midst of all this gloom? I am filled with sadness and rage”.

I was in Bethlehem during those days for meetings. I reflected long and hard on my friend’s words. I frequently walked the streets of Bethlehem late evenings staring at brightly shops and well decorated shops and walkways. There were dazzling Christmas trees and people were quite visibly unwilling to be pressed into gloom.

At the meetings we were in, one heard accounts of everyday life and brutality which Palestinians have to endure day in and day out. Houses demolished, tear gas shells on peaceful protests, lands stolen to make way for settlements to house Jewish settlers, and the threat of more land annexation, people imprisoned for no rhyme or reason, the people of Gaza blockaded to a point where conditions are unlivable, with scarce access to daily necessities, to adequate health care, and the real fear that you could be bombed the next minute.

In the face of all this, it astounded me how Palestinians could be so resilient and feisty despite what they routinely confront.

Christmas celebrations in Palestine are really like the candle light that are a protest in the darkness. Those lights say to the darkness which envelope their socio-political context: “I beg to differ”!

It is truly a gift to be able to defy the intent of the oppressor to hush the Palestinians into surrender and apathy and to accept the unjust as reality. The Palestinians refuses to allow the idea of hope to turn into an abstraction. They, instead, consciously internalize it and make that an active part of living. Hope accords meaning to life and confers courage to life. Such courage permits the Palestinians to live out the spirit of resistance to injustice.

Palestine today is characterized by the imposition of a violent and pitiless racist-apartheid system. It is occupied by a regime which thoughtlessly pretends it has control over the lives of another people. That thoughtlessness allows it to kill, maim, imprison, and de-people those it wants to see removed from site.

These reflections took me back to my University days of the 1960s. I recall graffiti sprayed on street walls. “Don’t adjust your mind. There is a fault in reality.” Those were the heady days when youth and student movements around the world brought down corrupt, anti-people regimes and engaged in defiant protest against oppressive political machinations. That slogan is apt for us today as we commemorate Christmas. How do we discern that fault in reality and transform it?

Jesus was also a casualty of cruelty, a casualty and victim of the conceit of the dominant. Jesus is coming and he brings the victory of life over death, of love over hatred. He is the only one who brings true Liberation. That is Christmas.

Ranjan Solomon