Ashamed of American Christian abandonment of their faithBy Ray Hanania — Does your mother have to be from Bethlehem before you can even bother to care for the fate of that holy city? My mother and her family are from Bethlehem. She was born down the street from the Holy Manger where Jesus was cradled more than 2,000 years ago. Down the street from the Church of the Nativity built many centuries ago to mark that site which is revered by hundreds of millions of true Christians around the world. And now, down the street from one of the most offensive, disturbing constructions, the 26 foot tall “barrier” that Israel’s government declares is a “fence.” This “fence” is 24 feet tall and is made of concrete. It is a Wall, as even former President Jimmy Carter has said in disgust, and it snakes up and down the streets of Jesus’ Birthplace. This Wall is not constructed to protect Israelis from Bethlehem terrorism, or from terrorism from any other place in a conflict that has raged unending since 1947, but rather it is being built by Israel so Israel can steal more land from Palestinians who are Christian and Muslim.
And while this abomination is being constructed, Christians throughout the world including in the United States take pause from their daily routines of immersing themselves in the spoils of good fortune, buying presents and expensive gifts and new flat screen TVs, an X-Box video games, and new cars, and vacations, and commercialized crap in a feast of greed that contradicts the very foundation of their beliefs.
Jesus was about “giving” not taking.
Jesus was about “kindness” not greed.
Jesus was about “helping those in need,” not selfishly fattening your own.
And in the city of his birthplace, Israel continues to take more and more land from Christians and Muslims, claiming that the land is needed for “security.” Yet the very taking of that land is the cause of much of the resistance from Palestinians, who are Christian and Muslim, who have had enough and continue to fight back in the only way they know how.
I say Christian and Muslim because this is a conflict driven by religion.
Israel is, as they remind you often, a “Jewish State.” But Israel does not exist in the West Bank which was occupied in 1967, except in the minds and actions of fanatics who oppose peace and who seek to drive all of the Christians and Muslims out of the Holy Land.
In the heart of the West Bank just south of Jerusalem, a divided city not just physically but racially and religiously, too, Bethlehem sits surrounded by this ugly, disgusting Wall that in part was built because Israel was able to use money freed up by American tax dollars paid each year in the billions.
The Wall is not a “fence.” It is an “offense.” It is “offensive.”
If this Wall were built to protect Israelis from the terrorist threat, then why wasn’t it built on the line that divided the West Bank from Israel?
Instead, Israel built the Wall deep inside the West Bank not on Israeli land, but on Palestinian land. In fact, the Wall snakes around “grabbing” things, placing such things as important religious landmarks like Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem within its greedy grasp, separating the holy landmark from Christians and Muslims.
Worse, it grabs land. The richest land in the West Bank bordering Israel’s 1949 armistice line borders. Thousands of miles of land, snaking between farm lands and the homes of the land owners who can’t even farm their lands now because the wall divides their property.
The Wall also intentionally grabs all of the important water wells in the West Bank and puts them in Israel’s control.
That means that Christian and Muslim Palestinian farmers and villages and cities no longer have access to those water wells to farm their lands and earn their livings.
It’s all about security, Israel insists.
But it could have been about security, too, if the Wall were built on Israel’s land, instead of on Palestinian land.
Ever since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, it has built settlements and buildings and it has taken land from Palestinian Christians and Muslims.
My own family land sits just north of Gilo, 8.25 acres (33 Dunum) that I have to prove belongs to me now, because Israel has occupied it and I am not a Jew.
I am just one of the thousands of Christians who originate from Bethlehem, whose fate has been destroyed by a conflict that both sides must shoulder the blame.
Yes, both sides, Arabs and Israelis. Both sides have done things to each other to cause this conflict. It is not just terrorism from one side. It is terrorism of all kinds from both sides.
When you take away a family’s land, their ability to survive, to earn a living and all their hope, is it any surprise that some would turn to violence?
If Israel wants peace, pull back your settlers and your land grabs and your greed, and focus on real security by protecting your own state which I and many Palestinians recognize and accept.
Don’t build your state by stealing the lands of others.
As an American Christian who is proud of his Palestinian heritage, I have to cry out this Christmas again for the suffering of the Christians in the holiest Christian city in the Christian religion.
I am compelled to ask out loud, why are my own people, the Christians, so cowardly and silent in the face of the most repugnant persecution of Christians to take place in centuries?
When you sit around your Christmas trees and pretend to celebrate in the true spirit of Christmas, maybe you will think about all that.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and author. He can be reached at www.hanania.com . Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate, www.ArabWritersGroup.com.)
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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