Christmas Is Cancelled In Bethlehem

Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of a Palestinian Jew born 2023 years ago in Roman Occupied Bethlehem. His family were refugees and continued to flee danger for much of his young life. Jesus’ birth was fraught with danger, much like every child born in Palestine today.

For most of our lives, Christmas is about joy. But this year it takes on a somber tone. Bethlehem have cancelled Christmas.

2023 years after Jesus’ birth, Bethlehem is again occupied. It is part of the West Bank, and its normally bustling Christmas markets are empty.

Al Jazeera reports that Noha Helmi Tarazi, a grandmother living in Bethlehem says “How can we celebrate Christmas in the midst of this genocidal war? How can we celebrate when people in Gaza struggle to get even one meal a day?”

She lost her sister in the bombardment of the Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza and was unable to attend the funeral because she was not given a permit to travel there. She lost her brother too.

She is just one of many Palestinian Christians who have lost so much.

I know many American Christians live by the motto “what would Jesus do”? And that’s what we should all ask ourselves deeply on Christmas Day. What would Jesus do, and are we making the choices he would have made.

For us Muslims, we learn from what the prophets did as they lived under and fought oppression. Jesus spoke up to power at great risk to his own life (we all know what happened).

What if Jesus were alive today? He’d be demanding a ceasefire, he would ensure humanitarian aid was with the Palestinians. He would be all over TikTok and Instagram saying what’s happening on the ground. He would be calling out the Western leaders especially US, UK, EU.

And get this, many of the Christians today, would not believe him.

But they are celebrating Christmas, while totally ignoring its real meaning.

For those who celebrate Christmas, my wish for you is, to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas and whose birth you are celebrating. And think upon the people of the land of his birth. On Christmas Day, over 20,000 people have been killed by their occupier in 80 days. 8,000 of them children. 100 journalists who (like Luke, Matthew, John) have got their stories to you.

With that I wish you a deep reflectful Christmas. May we do the right thing.

The painting is Madonna of the Oranges by Palestinian artist, Ismail Shammout (1997). Shammout was forced out of Palestine during the Nakba with his family in 1948. In this painting, Shammout transforms the white washed Italian renaissance Madonna image back into the Palestinian mother and baby – as what Mary and Jesus were more likely to have looked like. Link to the art in comments.

Animah Kosai

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