CounterPunch.com, December 18, 2007
By SONJA KARKAR
As Christmas approaches this year, the thoughts of Christians all over the world will once again turn to Bethlehem, the holy town where Jesus was born over two millennia ago. Voices will be raised in joyful celebration and children everywhere will re-create the Christmas story to help us remember the circumstances in which the Christ child was born.
Such a momentous occasion in such humble surroundings heralded a new way of thinking about people's relationship with God and with each other. It shook the foundations of an unforgiving society presided over by an unforgiving God and proclaimed peace and goodwill on earth amongst all people. There was indeed much to hope for.
However, the tranquil pastoral scene so familiar to us is not at all evident in Bethlehem today. Bethlehem does not lie still, and peace on earth and goodwill towards all is as elusive as ever. The tyranny of Israel's occupation and its colonial expansionism is crippling the lives of both Palestinian Christians and Muslims alike. Yet, many Christians will again ignore the misery suffered by the Palestinians in the Holy Land and will celebrate Christmas without remembering that it was amongst this people and in their land that Jesus was born. Priests will chant, masses will be said, carols will be sung and nativity scenes will be created, but it is unlikely that many sermons will urge Christian congregations to speak out against the crimes being committed in Palestine.