By Elias Akleh
Special to PalestineChronicle.com
While driving around the suburbs of Los Angeles enjoying the bright lights decorating the houses and the trees in celebration for Christmas, I could not help thinking about what kind of Christmas Christian Palestinians are celebrating, that is if they still can celebrate anymore.
I called my brother-in-law, a Lutheran priest in the city of Bethlehem, to ask him about Christmas celebration in the birth town of Jesus. He replied “This is the darkest Christmas ever”. He explained that Christian Palestinians do not have any spiritual energy to celebrate because every house is inflicted with a tragedy perpetrated by the Israeli occupation and the financial and economical siege enforced by the American/Israeli policies. One house-hold has lost their young child, who was gunned down by an Israeli sniper. The two sons of a second house had been snatched from their beds in the early morning hours by the Israeli soldiers and had disappeared in a yet unknown Israeli dungeon suffering all kinds of torture. In the third house lives a family, who has been separated from their olive field –their major source of living- by the separation wall. The head of the next house had been without a job for the last two years due to the economic siege. His family has been living on the small food parcels donated by a charity institution. Shop owners and small businesses are not making any money because the whole town of Bethlehem is contained within the Israeli imprisoning wall that separates Palestinian towns and their inhabitants from each other.
Besides the Manager Square in front of the Nativity Church the whole town of Bethlehem is in darkness. People are trying to save few pennies on their electric bills by sleeping earlier around 7 pm. Abbas’ Palestinian Authority was keen to lighting the Manager Square to give the world the illusion that Palestinians still celebrate Christmas.
I can still remember the old Christmas celebrations when I was still a young boy. The main street stretching from the main market in midtown Bethlehem to the Nativity Church used to be very bright with Christmas lights and very crowded with people and vendors all day and all night long. Now the street is dark and empty. The only people you could see there are the many Presidential Guards of Palestinian President Abbas and his political entourage, who came to attend the midnight mass. Few dignitaries, who would make a good TV show, were invited to the midnight mass.
Christian Palestinians from West Bank cities (Jerusalem, Ramallah, Beit Hanina and others) were not allowed to visit Bethlehem to pray and to celebrate Christmas. Christian Palestinians from the 1948-occupied Palestinian cities (Nazareth, Haifa, Jaffa, Tiberias and others) were not allowed to pray and celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem. Christian Palestinians from Gaza Strip were not allowed to pray and celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem. The Israeli government, the more than 500 military Israeli checkpoints within and between Palestinian towns, the heavily armed Israeli soldiers, and the separation wall around Bethlehem stood in the way of all these Christian Palestinians.
Many people in the Western World and in the USA are greatly misinformed and believe that Palestine (or the Holy Land as they like to call it) is inhabited by Moslems only. It escapes their mind that Palestine is the birth place of Jesus Christ and Christianity, and it is thus a natural consequence that Christian Palestinian Arabs live there. Many American coworkers of mine and people I deal with get surprised to learn that I am a Christian Palestinian Arab. The pro-Zionist Israeli Western media is so keen to marginalizing Christian Palestinians in specific and Christian Arabs in general. Zionist Israel and its political supporters are trying to portray to the Western World a pre-Christian Judaic Israel defending its God’s given gift (promised land) from a sea of Moslem terrorists in order to gain the sympathy and the finance of the Christian right.
Israelis fear the existence of Christian Palestinians might obstruct their ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. So they discretely persecute Christian Palestinians, who suffer the worst Israeli persecution tactics to drive them out of the country, especially out of Jerusalem. Christian Jerusalemite Palestinians are offered huge sums of money to sell their properties to Israelis. Israeli tax collectors, accompanied with armed Israeli soldiers, routinely raid Christian shops in Jerusalem, and impose unreasonable huge sums of taxes on their owners, and when they default payments their shops are closed, confiscated, and sold in auctions to the highest bidders – usually Zionist financiers. Zionist extremists had many times invaded and settled in Christian homes in Jerusalem claiming ownership through fake deeds. Transfer of young Christian Palestinians is covertly encouraged in the form of offering them “refuge” and ease of travel to some European countries and to Canada.
Christian persecution was so apparent when the Israeli government itself had defrauded the Greek Orthodox Church and seized church properties in Jerusalem. The government had also threatened not to officially recognize the new Greek Patriarch if the Church does not drop the legal suite against the Israeli government to regain its property.
Jesus Christ had come to Palestine to teach and to spread peace on earth. The so-called God’s chosen people have come to Palestine with all types of weapons to spread war, terror, and destruction.
Jesus and all the prophets had taught us to love each other. Israelis are infusing hatred towards all the others (Goyims) within the milk they feed their children. They incite hatred between brothers, between ethnic groups, and between nations in the Arab World.
Jesus and the Commandments taught us not to kill, yet Israeli snipers take pleasure in hunting young Palestinian children and shooting them in the heads and upper torso. The Israeli army bombs Palestinian villages destroying their homes, and murder women and children.
Jesus taught not to covet nor steal your brother’s properties. Israelis had stolen Palestine from its rightful owners; they stole their homes, their fields, and even their lives.
Jesus taught us: “If you have two shirts give your human brother one of them”, instead Israel has dedicated billions of donated American tax money to military efforts to kill Palestinians, to steal more of their land, and to build more colonies to be inhabited with extremist Zionist Israelis.
Oh Jesus Christ, while the whole world is celebrating your birth with bright lights and carols, the Israeli occupation had shut up caroling and had turned the lights off in your birth town.
-Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab writer of Palestinian descent, born in the town of Beit-Jala. Currently he lives in the US.