The Birth and Life of Jesus is the Living Experience of the Palestinian Christians

10 Dec

Christmas season in Palestine is unlike any experienced by any Church in the world.  In Palestine, Advent marks the birth of the faith of the Palestinian Christians, their witness, and truths. Jesus lived and witnessed a heartless world, confronted injustice and defended the vulnerable. No place on earth is more callous than the Israeli occupied and militarized Palestine where Jesus was born.

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Mai Abdul Rahman     December 2019

In Palestine the Advent season is unlike any experienced by any Church in the world. For the Palestinian Christians, observing Advent in context and purpose is defined by their uninterrupted connection to the first followers of the Christian faith. During Advent, Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus and remember the real meaning of Christmas. For the Christians of Palestine it marks the beginning of their faith and  the daily truths they live that determine the measure of their hardships.

On the first day of Advent candles are lit and church pastors in their special way mark the beginning of the Christmas season. Palestinians never take for granted these simple acts of faith. Advent under Israel’s unpredictable political climate and military occupation is an out of the ordinary experience. Observing Advent is a test of faith. Fulfilling the same customs set by their ancestors thousands of years ago is a trial of endurance. Even dipping the first candle in freshly pressed olive oil and lighting the last candle are formidable challenges. In Palestine, preparing for Advent and celebrating Christmas requires greater effort, ceaseless worry, and abundance of faith. The desperate world Jesus lived is affirmed in the daily trials and tribulations of ordinary Palestinians. No place on earth is like the Israeli occupied and militarized Palestine.

Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born in the little town of Bethlehem to bring joy to the world. On the first week of Advent the birth of Jesus is commemorated by lighting Christmas trees in town squares across the world without fear or apprehension. However, the city of Bethlehem’s Christmas tree is lit right beneath Israel’s illegal wall and watchtowers that seal Palestinians from their families and the rest of the world. Palestinians take comfort that Jesus also lived in a desperate and cruel world. However, those truths do not make it any easier for them to live an unjust world.

Celebrating Advent is ordinary and effortless for most Christians. But not for the Palestinian Christians. It requires special permits from Israel’s military administrators. During Advent church pastors, priests, and bishops all across the world recite the story of Jesus, his birth,  life and family that hailed from Nazareth. An Nasira (Nazareth) is less than sixty miles away from the Church of Bethlehem. For Palestinians the prospect of traveling 3,232 miles to Sweden is more plausible than clearing the 103 military manned Israeli check points that separate Bethlehem from An Nasira.

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The Christmas season is a time of spiritual reflection on the important foundations of the Christian faith. Palestinian Christians celebrate God’s love for the world within their walled and sieged churches. The tiny manger where Jesus was born is kept in the Church Bethlehem under the watchful eyes of Israel’s military occupation soldiers- who control their movement and access to their cherished church. Cruelty is carried on unabated in the same land and fields where Jesus witnessed wicked callousness.

During Advent the story of Jesus and the heartless world He experienced are abstractly described around the world. For the Palestinians, the cruel world Jesus confronted is contextually understood through the imposed conditions made possible by the callousness of neighbors and strangers. The life and world Jesus encountered is the living experience of Palestinian Christians.

Palestinians reside in the small town where Jesus was born, their cities were visited by Jesus, their fields is where Jesus the shepherd roamed, their orchards shaded Jesus, and His sermons were heard and recounted by their ancestors. Within their walled off churches, towns, and communities Palestinians contemplate each detail about the birth and life of Jesus. However, unlike all others, these biblical stories are an affirmation of their strong connection to the first Christians and ancestral churches they must protect.

During the last week of Advent, clerics and priests retell the story of the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks at night and were foretold of the birth of Jesus. Palestinian shepherds roam the same fields keeping watch over their flocks day and night afraid of Israel’s settlers and soldiers who at will and without cause harm them and their flock. As an infant, Jesus promised peace on earth, ultimate and permanent peace, but the peace promised has yet to materialize for the Palestinians. The descendents of the first church are walled and sieged as the world silently watches the zealots actively plot and plan their demise and the downfall of the Jewish people and Israel.

Christmas Day, Catholic and Protestant clerics will bear their ecclesiastical vestments that display Palestinian traditional dalmatic embroidery that was first worn by early Palestinian clerics. They will quote the scripture that was elucidated by early Palestinian scholars. Yet, few if any, will utter a word of concern for the plight of the Palestinian Christians. Their daily struggle to worship and maintain Christendom’s first churches are ignored.

Jesus defended the innocent. Cruelty is facilitated in the land and fields where Jesus protected the vulnerable. By any means necessary, Christian Zionists want Palestinians to relinquish their ancestral lands to the Israeli settlers. They strategically choose to intensify the tension and conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. They scheme to empty and reshape the Palestinian landscape. By funding, supporting, and expanding Israel’s illegal settlements they encourage the robbing Palestinian lands, fields, and water. Their goal is to affect the life and livelihood Palestinians. The consequences of their actions on the Palestinian Christians is by design.  In their view, Palestinian Christians are the necessary casual victims in their plot and scheme to hasten Armageddon.  However, unlike the Christian Zionists, Palestinian Christians faithfully advocate peace for friend and foe. They practice and honor the faith of their forefathers, speak truth to power, and work for justice and peace for their own people, and their occupiers. They carry the cross saddled upon them by fellow Christians with grace.

The Palestinian Christians live the true meaning of Advent all year long. Two thousand years of faith connects them to their past and present. Neglected by those who share the tenants of their faith, they draw comfort from the just and compassionate path that Jesus called upon their ancestors. Their faith is their hope. They pray the sluggish conscious of the faithful is aroused. And tirelessly work to bring peace where the Prince of Peace was born.



One Response to “The Birth and Life of Jesus is the Living Experience of the Palestinian Christians”


  1. Remembering the Stateless Palestinian Refugees on World Refugee Day | American-Palestinian Women's Association - June 20, 2020

    […] The United Nations’ World Refugee Day is observed on June 20th.  It is an annual reminder of the  Palestinian refugees whose families were forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution and violence. They were coerced into leaving their homes, lands, and orchards to house European Jews who moved into the homes Palestinians built and owned, and have since enjoyed the fruit of the lands their ancestors tilled since the birth of Jesus Christ. […]

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