I had a different reflection for Advent ready for this morning when I saw this in my email inbox. It is a message from Bright Stars of Bethlehem and Mitri Raheb, about the paradox of living and celebrating Christmas in a Bethlehem under occupation. 2000 years ago, the birth of a Prince in Bethlehem who was not a prince--a prince not of war as other princes, but of peace--announced to the Caesars of the world that they would not have the final word. They have been trying to kill him ever since. And they are doing it today, again, in the place of His birth. We need Christmas, the real Christmas, more than ever.
The Hopes and Fears of all the years are met in Thee
This stanza from "O Little Town of Bethlehem" was true 2000 years ago, and is true in Bethlehem today. During the Christmas season, while the Palestinian community, comprising Christians and Muslims, was celebrating the lighting of the Christmas tree on manger square, young Palestinians, who were demonstrating their longing for freedom, were shot at, wounded, and some even killed by re-invading soldiers of the Israeli occupation.
Two contradictory phenomena are so poignantly met in Bethlehem, as we continue to live between tear gas and Christmas ornaments, between shattered hopes and resilient faith.
Still living with both hopes and fears, we re-affirm our faith in the Child of Bethlehem, who came that we may have life and have it abundantly.
From the "Little town of Bethlehem" we wish you a merry Christmas and a blessed new year.
Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb
Bethlehem, December 17th 2015
University Professor Wounded
Rehab Nazzal, a professor at Bright Stars of Bethlehem supported Dar al-Kalima University, was shot in the leg by Israeli occupation forces in Bethlehem last Friday.
According to several newspaper articles, Nazzal, who is also an artist and researcher, has been documenting the disputes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli occupation forces since October. She was photographing and taking shelter from a military "Skunk" trunk -- a non-lethal weapon that sprays sewage-smelling chemicals -- when she was shot.
"I did not realize what had happened," said Nazzal in a statement. "The last image I photographed shows a sniper hiding on the ground near the entrance to one of the city's hotels."
An ambulance rushed to Nazzal's aid but was attacked by teargas grenades, suffocating both her and the paramedics assisting her. The cloud of gas also prevented other photographers and journalists from documenting the situation.
Please pray for Nazzal's continued healing and for all people throughout Palestine as we turn our attention especially this time of year to Bethlehem.