By: Jocelyn Perry
“The star they had seen, when it rose, went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the Child was.” The Star of Bethlehem revealed the birthplace and manifestation of peace, grace and humility on Earth—the Christ Child. The beauty of the Christ Child’s birth draws people of faith to the beauty and grace of Heaven. This is a Christmas story for all humanity. The story continues stating that “a great company of the heavenly host appeared . . . saying . . . ‘and on earth peace to those on whom Heaven’s favor rests.’”
During the Christmas season, when we reflect on Bethlehem, we must not only hear the call to peace, grace and humility but also the call of the Magi—the call to wisdom. To develop greater wisdom through understanding, the anarchist critique considers how our faith supports soci-economic, political, environmental and cultural discourses. Thus it critically and holistically engages our faith. When considering the anarchical context, we must ask ourselves whether there is peace on earth in Israel, Gaza and the Palestinian West Bank.
In spring 2009, an international delegation from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) journeyed to Israel and the Palestinian West Bank. CPT delegates worked to understand the division and conflict between Palestinians and Israelis and to connect with all people. The CPT delegation met with pastors, social justice activists, educators, farmers and soldiers. From time to time, “the peace that surpasses all understanding” was essential when hearing the difficult lives of Palestinian and Israelis living under a military occupation.
CPT had several charged meetings, which in a nut-shell, revealed the socio-economic, political, environmental and cultural structure that exist under military occupation. CPT engaged in clear discourse of systems and practices that divide Palestinians from Israelis and sustain the structure of inequality. This inequality goes on to restrict the liberties of both Israeli citizens and Palestinians. Among the several people CPT connected with in Israel and the Palestinian West Bank were: Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence and Daoud Nassar of Tent of Nations.1
Israeli Defense Force mandatory military service is twenty-one months for women and thirty-six months for men.2 Yehuda Shaul spoke during an informative session about his experience serving as a solider in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) serving two years in the West Bank and one year and two months in Hebron. Yehuda told of the military system that is constructed to disregard the humanity of Palestinians citizens and Israeli soldiers. He conveyed openly about how he and his fellow soldiers routinely participated in violent and aggressive acts, which dehumanized Palestinians. Yehuda spoke about the role of Breaking the Silence as “admitting the truth” of military occupation. Breaking the Silence, is an organization of veterans who speak out with honest and courage of the realities of IDF military service.
CPTers met with Daoud Nassar is a Palestinian family farmer of the organization Tent of Nations. Tent of Nation’s land is a 100-acre family farm and education center. Olive groves, flocks of goats, earth shelters are part of the family farm located just beside the town Bethlehem. The Nassar family has been on Tent of Nations land for four generations but gentrification and the development of Israeli government supported settlements around Tent of Nations land has cut off the family farm from sources of water and electricity. The family is resisting the loss of their land by going through the government courts to prove ownership of a farm that has been in the family for generations. Some 4,000 people from many countries in the world visit the Tent of Nations every year.
Daoud, who was born in nearby Bethlehem, holds degrees in Biblical studies, business and tourism management. He and his family work for the advancement of Palestinian Christians by planting olive trees, developing alternative energy sources, and improving ways to collect, store and use water supplies wisely.
The Star of Bethlehem, which guides us to our faith during the Christmas, is still shining a bright light on peace, grace, humility and wisdom. The star that calls us a greater understanding of the reality of living in Israel, Gaza and the Palestinian West Bank.
Peace and Blessings
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