Bethlehem (Aramaic for House of Laham, the Canaanitic God of Sustenance) area is decked in colors and the best and most beautiful lights are the smiles on the faces of our children. On Saturday evening, we attended a Christian service that was a joint service with the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The Palestinian children bell choir was uplifting. Children led the lighting of the candles at churches, the singing, and the choirs and they outnumbered adults in most activities. We were blessed by visited homes of poor children of different faiths. On Monday 3500 members of marching bands/scouts (most youth under 18) led parades near the apartheid wall separating Jerusalem from Bethlehem towards the Nativity square. Some of the marching youth were Muslims. The marching band from Gaza (Christian and Muslim) was not allowed to participate by the Israeli occupation authorities. Earlier in the day, children in the square formed a large peace symbol and the words "LOVE ALL" with their bodies in front of the massive Christmas tree in the square. The United Nations Work and Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) had banners asking people to remember the suffering children in Gaza and Syria.
Later in the day, the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement and the YMCA/YWCA Joint Advocacy initiative organized a children's program. Laughing and dancing lasted for nearly two hours and then gifts were passed to the kids by Santa Clause. We all should remember that Jesus was born 2000 years ago in a humble manger. My ancestors, the Shepherds of Beit Sahour recognized the message of hope and acted on it. They and Jesus were Palestinians living under a foreign imperial occupation managed by local individuals who claimed religion and law. Herod killed the Children of Bethlehem to advance the agenda of hate. Jesus advanced the agenda of love. His family became refugees from tyranny (like millions of Palestinians today). Jesus challenged military occupation with non-violent resistance and chastised Pharisees and Sadducees for hypocrisy. He called for peace and helped the oppressed. This important child of Bethlehem is recognized by Christians, Muslims, and most of humanity (including atheists and agnostics) as a great teacher and a saviour. He taught all humanity that it is important to tell the truth and stand with the weak and oppressed of this world. He taught by example. Palestinian Christians believe he became the first martyr for non-violent resistance to foreign occupation of Palestine. He said "let the children come to me" and implored us to believe in goodness in the same way that children do and then to ACT on our belief. Whether we are Christian or not, this is the message coming forth from Bethlehem this season and all the time.
If you are in the Bethlehem area let us get together and plan our actions for 2013 and beyond especially for the future of all children of our shared planet.
Tuesday/Today 4 PM Candle Light march for Palestine in Beit Sahour starting at the Shephetrds' Field followed by festival of Christmas with music etc.
Wednesday 6 PM: Service at the wall neaer Rachel Tomb area
Friday: At Izbet Tabib (near Qalqilia), Bilin, and other localities in Palestine, join marches against the apartheid wall
Bethlehem views: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdPjsNpuqCk
Video from the simulcast with the National Cathedral
"do not ask whom for the bells (of Bethlehem) toll, they toll for thee"