Christmas is a difficult time for true Christians
Saudi Gazette Sunday, December 29, 2013
By Ray Hanania
Christmas is a difficult time for true Christians. It’s difficult not so much because of the religion, but because of the contrast created against it by the secular “Christians” who love the Christian life but fail to practice the fundamental tenets of Christianity. To many of the secular Christians, Christmas is about possession: Buying presents and decorations that have no real meaning in the Christian religion, other than having become a “tradition” of the secular holiday.
For me, a true Christian is someone who embraces the fundamental teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him), which involve compassion and truth. The first test of truth is to look at the City of Bethlehem, where Jesus (pbuh) was born, and begin the process there.
Do you care that Bethlehem is under oppressive siege by Israel? Are you concerned for Christians who live in the Holy Land, where Christianity first grew? Or, is Christmas just a time when you spend money on presents to give to your friends and family, and maybe, make a donation to help the poor – a donation that is often done only during the Christmas season and doesn’t represent the true spirit of “giving” all year round to those in need.
I know most Americans claim to be Christians. But when I see them turn their backs on their fellow Christians who remain in the Holy Land and live under Israeli oppression, you have to wonder how serious their concerns really are.
Last week, a Christian Palestinian who has embraced “Israel” as his nation to the point of even becoming a member of the Israeli Knesset, Hanna Sweid, asked the Speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body, if a Christmas tree could be displayed in the Knesset Plaza. The speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, rejected the idea calling it “inappropriate.”
As an American, my mind immediately raced to the similar instances here in the United States where this Christian country always allows the display of Jewish and Muslim religious symbols at government locations. The governments just don’t sponsor them, but allows citizens to erect them.
Every year, a Menorah is displayed on the plaza of Chicago’s Cook County Building in front of City Hall, both government properties. And, they also allow the placement of the Nativity scene, although one year it was stolen.
Muslims also hold their prayers for Ramadan and officials around the country hold Eid Celebrations and Iftars to commemorate the Islamic religious “holiday.” But in Israel, which claims to be America’s closest ally and also asserts that it is a democracy, too, a Christian can’t display a Christmas tree on the plaza at the Knesset.
In nearby Bethlehem, Israeli settlers have taken over homes and lands from Christians and Muslims. Since Israel occupied Bethlehem and the Christian Triangle of Beit Sahur and Beit Jala in 1967, more than a thousand Christians have been killed by Israeli soldiers, along with tens of thousands of Muslims.
Christian citizens of Israel continue to be mistreated as second class citizens, denied fundamental rights in Israel because of their religion, just as Muslims are also discriminated against even more. Nazareth, were Jesus (pbuh) lived and worked, is abused by Israel. Although its residents are “Israeli citizens,” they are non-Jewish citizens and they receive very little in government financial support compared to the settlement of Nazareth Illit (Upper Nazareth where Israeli Jews have established an exclusive colony).
It is also true that Christians also suffer at the hands of Muslims in Palestine and in the Arab and Muslim world. Taybeh, which is the only remaining all-Christian village in Palestine has become a target of Muslim extremists. But at least the Muslim and Arab world have denounced the violence against Christians by these Muslim fanatics. Most Israelis, however, don’t care. And worse is the apathy that Christians in the West like in America show for the oppression of their brothers and sisters under Israeli occupation.
Yet American Christians fail to see the connection between what they worship and what is their religion’s reality. Christians are being persecuted in Israel. They are being stripped of their lands and their rights. They are oppressed in Israel. And American Christians could care less.
Israel struggles to keep it that way, falsely claiming they are a haven for Christians from the Arab and Muslim world. But they are not a haven. That’s why I am surprised about Edelstein’s refusal to allow the display of a Christmas tree, a non-religious symbol of Christianity to be displayed at the Knesset Plaza. It is surprising because I would have thought that Israelis would jump at the opportunity to display the tree and show how much more concerned they are for the well-being of Israeli Christians.
Edelstein’s actions in rejecting the placement of the Christmas tree only exposes the truth, that deep down, Israel holds Christians in as much disdain as they hold Muslims. It’s about who controls the land. Israel wants it and is satisfied to see the Christian population disappearing. Because once out of the way, Israel’s policies against minorities will become even more brutal.
– Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com or follow him on Twitter @RayHanania
- Yes, a Christmas tree in the Knesset (blogs.timesofisrael.com)
- Christian MK calls for Knesset Christmas tree (timesofisrael.com)
- Israel’s Christian Awakening (online.wsj.com)
- No Christmas tree in Israeli parliament, speaker decides (haaretz.com)
- Israel to Abbas: No, Jesus was not a Palestinian (timesofisrael.com)
- Edelstein: Christmas Trees Bring Back ‘Bad Memories’ for Jews (israelnationalnews.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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