ENGLISH VERSION: Christmas greetings from the Land of Christ's Birth
Maria C. Khoury
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
As Christians across the Holy Land celebrate the birth of our Savior today the Orthodox Church will wait thirteen days until it will be December 25th on the Old Julian Calendar to hold the midnight service at the Holy Nativity Church in Bethlehem. The message of the Prince of Peace is badly needed in this land especially these last few months where we have seen Palestinians killing Palestinians in the worst clashes ever between different political parties. And, at the end, what this land needs on all sides is reconciliation because the most unholy things are taking place in what is holy to all. If forgiveness is not initiated by any of the sides then the bloodbath will continue and our terrible situation will continue unchanged since the second uprising started September 28, 2000.
We continue to live in a world where the Apartheid Wall has completely isolated us from other communities and without permits people cannot move around. But the Israelis are merciful and have provided a few permits for this holy season to have people from Gaza visit their families in the West Bank. I am not sure how much security the Wall will bring to Israel because as you cage people in a huge prison and starve them to death by closing the boarders this can only continue to lead to future violent resistance to this awful treatment. I heard on the news that twenty two checkpoints will be uplifted as a good will gesture by the Israeli Prime Minister and I am wondering what about the other 300 checkpoints all around us? What will 22 out of 300 really matter when the rest of the checkpoints will continue to deprive us from our basic human rights?
And what is worst of all is after obtaining a permit which involves hours long and trying to pass a major checkpoint to have the soldier tell you: „This permit is not good for this checkpoint. It is only appropriate for the Qalandia checkpoints. And your basic right to freedom of movement is denied by someone that looks younger than your sixteen year old son with a gun pointing at you.
The struggle to simply exist here is tested every day in the way the Israeli army humiliates and tortures people on the emotional, psychological and spiritual level by detaining Palestinians for hours and hours simply on their way to school, work or the hospital. This is the most frustrating feeling in the world which sometimes makes me want to leave and never come back. Three illegal settlements around Taybeh are growing bigger and bigger against all resolutions that call for a stop to settlement activity. Homes in Gaza continue to be demolished and people killed every day. More than ten thousand Palestinians continue to be detained in Israeli jails without proper charges. The military occupation is at full blast!
I truly believe that the Christian community is on the front line practicing the commandments of Christ to love our neighbor and to love our enemies and furthermore to forgive those who harm us. This takes the grace of God to be able to reach out to those who have hurts us and wish them well. On behalf of our Orthodox Christian community in Taybeh we appeal to you to hear the Christmas message from the sacred land of Christ‚s birth and reach out to those who have done harm to you and forgive them as God forgive us.