Palestine Update 199
Eid Milad Majid or ‘Glorious Birth
In Arabic Happy/Merry Christmas is Eid Milad Majid or ‘Glorious Birth Feast’. In Aramaic, the language Jesus used, it is ‘Eedookh Breekha’ which means ‘Blessed be your Christmas’
Christmas is very important in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem. It is, after all, the town in which Jesus was born, some six miles south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem itself means ‘house of bread’ and it was once well known for growing wheat which was made into bread. Both Christian and Muslim Palestinians are proud that Jesus was born in a Palestinian Territory! To enrich the celebrations this year, two days before Christmas Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the highest authority of the Roman Catholic tradition in the Holy Land, crossed an Israeli military checkpoint from Jerusalem ahead of midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity. The Archbishop leads the main Christmas service in the Church.
Christmas celebrations 2018, Church of Nativity, Bethlehem, 22nd December
Bethlehem, located near Jerusalem, but cut off from the city by Israel’s separation barrier, has seen an increase in visitors this season after several difficult years due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian tourism officials and hotel operators reported their strongest season in years. Despite the superficial calm, the dire political situation is not removed from the minds of Palestinians. Saeb Erekat declared he wanted an “end of Israel’s belligerent occupation” He also referred to the strong support for the Jewish State from American Evangelical Christians. “There is nothing divine about colonialism, Erekat stated. The use of religion to justify Israel’s apartheid crimes underscores the darkness of occupation.” Israel’s aggressive occupation is urgent, he stated, so that the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem can be reunited and people are able to freely return to their holy sites.
In this issue of Palestine Updates, we bring you a few news items from Occupied Palestine on the occasion of Christmas.
Millions of tourists in Palestine; restrictions on Palestinians distressing
Christmas Eve celebrations among Palestinians of the occupied West Bank began, on 22nd December with scout marches at the Nativity Church in the Manger Square of Bethlehem City. Scouts brought cheer to the people welcoming the Latin Patriarch of Palestine, Jordan, and the Holy Land Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who is also the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.
Twenty four international delegations arrived in Bethlehem to join the festivities. There were no less than 3 million tourists from all corners of the globe. The flip side of this story is that the restriction of movements on Palestinians made it impossible for many Palestinians, in general, to be in Bethlehem to join in.
Bethlehem’s mayor Anton Salman, said that “the message of Palestinians on Christmas is that we are staying in the holy land and will maintain it and resist the occupation until our national goals are achieved, specifically independence and establishing a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
View video in Maann News
Christmas in Palestine
Annually, Israeli authorities filed travel permits for only a small percentage of Palestinian Christians in the besieged Gaza Strip, dividing families apart during the holiday season and preventing them from pilgrimage to the birthplace of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. The Israeli occupation annually obstructs the travel of Palestinian Christians from Gaza to Bethlehem and Jerusalem to attend Christmas celebrations and be reunited with their families in the occupied West Bank.
According to local sources, the Christians, who form a minority in Gaza, annually apply for “holiday permits” to the West Bank, however, most of the time Israeli authorities purposely file permits for the parents and not the children or in other cases for the mother and not the father.
Sources noted that most Christian families are divided due to this type of restriction and are unable to travel outside of Gaza and celebrate in Bethlehem or elsewhere. It is noteworthy that over the weekend, Christians gathered for the first Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in over a decade, which the Christian Orthodox Patriarchate and the Latin Patriarchate also attended the ceremony to mark the start of the holiday celebrations.
Christian community in Gaza Strip maintains Christmas cheer
The minor community of Christians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip Saturday lit a huge Christmas tree at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Gaza City to celebrated the holiday. As cheerful music played, a huge Christmas tree was lit with crowds of Christians and Muslims gathering at the yard of the YMCA, cheering and clapping. Leaders of the Christian community in the impoverished and besieged coastal enclave attended the event, with some children dressed in Santa Claus costume.
Before Hamas seized the control of the Gaza Strip, the number of Christians in the coastal enclave was around 4,000. Gaza Strip’s total population is around 2 million. However, the number has decreased after Israel waged three large-scale military air and ground offensives on the Gaza Strip in 2008, 2012 and 2014. Around 1,000 Christians remained in the Gaza Strip, community leaders said, adding that Israel provided around 350 permissions for Christians to go to the West Bank city of Bethlehem and Jerusalem to celebrate Christmas on December 24.
Pope calls for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Christmas address
Pope Francis said in his Christmas message that he hoped the festive season would lead to a resumption of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians: “May this Christmas help us to rediscover the bonds of fraternity linking us together…May it enable Israelis and Palestinians to resume dialogue and undertake a journey of peace that can put an end to a conflict that for over 70 years has rent the land chosen by the Lord to show his face of love.” Christmas celebrations were also underway in Nazareth — largest Arab city in Israel — where Christians believe the Archangel Gabriel announced Jesus’ birth to Mary and where they believe his childhood home was located.
Millions of Christians around the world were celebrating Christmas where Holy sites are located.
The real Bethlehem – what Israel’s occupation actually feels like
Excerpts from an article by Ghada Karmi is a Palestinian doctor, academic and author
“O little town of Bethlehem/How still we see thee lie/Above thy deep and dreamless sleep/The silent stars go by,” runs the famous Christmas carol sung all over the English-speaking world as it celebrates Christmas…”
Nothing could be further from the truth than the image of a sweet, untroubled Bethlehem as depicted in this popular carol originally created by the pious imagination of a Victorian Western-Christian. Generations of Christian children have been brought up on it, and its mythical power is such that few of them realise what or even where Bethlehem is. The city today is a “travesty of the place the Christmas carol depicts.”
An English national was recently surprised to learn that Bethlehem was located in Palestine. In her mind the town was more a legend than an actual place, and connected to Jews, if to anyone. That idea is still widespread and has been instrumental in keeping Western-Christians disengaged from the real Bethlehem and unsupportive of its struggle for survival. The city of Bethlehem is today an indictment of Western Christianity’s abject failure to sustain one of its holiest shrines. In today’s Bethlehem, “dreamless sleep” resembles a nightmare and the town can only “lie still” when Israel’s occupation ends.
Read full article in The Middle East Eye
Don’t befriend me for a day, and leave me a month. Don’t get close to me if you’re going to leave. Don’t say what you don’t do. Be close or get away.
لا تصاحبني يوماً .. لتهجرني شهراً ولا تقربني .. لتبعدني .. لا تقل ما لا تفعل كُن قريباً .. أو ابتعد.