“. . . standard issue developing-world cement block structures . . .” (Rachel Barenblat)

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Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem (Photo: Harold Knight, 2008)

❶ Political and religious leaders light Christmas tree at the endangered Jabal al-Baba community
. . . . . ❶ ― (ᴀ) Christmas in Bethlehem: How Trump’s move ruined it
❷ PLO: US bullying will not deter UN member states from voting against Jerusalem decision
. . . . . ❷ ― (ᴀ) Abbas to arrive in France for talks with French counterpart

  • Background: “Bible and Gun: Militarism in Jerusalem’s Holy Places.” Space & Polity.

❸ Israel begins construction of separation wall in Bethlehem-area village
. . . . . ❸ ― (ᴀ) New Synagogue under Western Wall Unveiled, $50m to be Allocated for “Temple Mount Explorations”
❹ POETRY by Rachel Barenblat
` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `
❶ POLITICAL  AND  RELIGIOUS  LEADERS  LIGHT  CHRISTMAS  TREE  AT  THE  ENDANGERED  JABAL  AL-BABA  COMMUNITY 
Palestine News and Information Agency – WAFA  
Dec. 21, 2017 ― Political and religious leaders attended on Tuesday a solidarity event in the endangered Bedouin community of Jabal al Baba, east of Jerusalem, during which a Christmas tree was lit.
___The community is at imminent risk of forced displacement after the so called “Israeli Civil Administration,” an arm of the occupation authority, ordered all of the community’s 320 Palestinian residents on November 9 to evacuate their homes ahead of the demolition of their homes and structures, despite ongoing court proceedings.
___Israel wants to take over the land located in the occupied West Bank to build a new settlement on it.
___The ceremony . . . was attended by Adnan Husseini, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Walid Assaf, Minister of Anti Wall and Settlements, Atalla Hanna, Archbishop of Sebastia, Rev. Jamal Khader, Latin Patriarchate . . .   and a number of diplomats and representatives of various Bedouin communities.
___During the opening ceremony, Minister Husseini reiterated the importance of celebrating Christmas during the latest developments in Jerusalem and noted that US President Donald Trump “wanted us to refrain from celebrating Christmas but despite of his decision we tell him that we will celebrate in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jabal al Baba and everywhere because we are ambassadors of peace.”   MORE . . . 
.  .  .  .  .  ❶  ―  (ᴀ)  CHRISTMAS  IN  BETHLEHEM:  HOW  TRUMP’S  MOVE  RUINED  IT
Al Jazeera English
Dec. 20, 2017 ― President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital looms large in Christmas festivities this year in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
___Some food vendors, sellers of holiday trinkets and a leading hotelier in biblical Bethlehem say Palestinian protests, triggered by what many here view as a provocative show of pro-Israel bias, have hurt their Christmas business.
___Yet Bethlehem also offers a stage for a Palestinian rebuttal: banners proclaiming Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Palestine have been draped over facades on Manger Square as a backdrop for Christmas TV broadcasts to a global audience.
[. . . .] Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was to have received Vice President Mike Pence, a devout Christian, in Bethlehem, but cancelled after the US pivot on Jerusalem. The snub came as Abbas rejected Washington as a Middle East broker.
___Meanwhile, Bethlehem’s flagship luxury hotel, the 250-bed Jacir Palace, closed because of frequent nearby clashes. General manager Marwan Kittani said the hotel had been fully booked for Christmas, but that he is now assessing day by day if he can reopen.   MORE . . . 
❷ PLO:  US  BULLYING  WILL  NOT  DETER  UN  MEMBER  STATES  FROM  VOTING  AGAINST  JERUSALEM  DECISION
Ma’an News Agency
Dec. 21, 2017 ― The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) slammed the US for threatening to take action against countries that vote in favor of a United Nations (UN) resolution that condemns the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
[. . . . ] US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley exercised the US’ veto power on Monday at the UN Security Council (UNSC) to kill a resolution critical of Trump’s unilateral move. The veto blocked the resolution, despite the 14 other members of the Security Council voting in favor.
___Another meeting was called to vote on a resolution calling for annulling the US decision, this time, to the General Assembly where US does not have a veto power. . . .    ___Ahead of the vote the US said that it would “take names” and possibly cut donor funding to those countries who voted against it.    MORE . . . 
.  .  .  .  .  ❷  ―  (ᴀ)  ABBAS  TO  ARRIVE  IN  FRANCE  FOR  TALKS  WITH  FRENCH  COUNTERPART
Palestine News and Information Agency – WAFA
Dec. 21, 2017 ― President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to arrive in Paris on Thursday for a two-day official visit during which he will meet his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, according to Palestine’s ambassador to France Salman al-Harfi.
___He told Voice of Palestine radio that Abbas and his French counterpart will meet on Friday morning to discuss the implications of US President Donald Trump’s decision recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel.   MORE . . . 

Pullan, Wendy. “BIBLE  AND  GUN:  MILITARISM  IN  JERUSALEM’S  HOLY  PLACES.”
SPACE & POLITY, vol. 17, no. 3, Dec. 2013, pp. 335-356.
[. . . .] It is once again possible to re-assess the sword and scroll relationship to suggest that rather than being equal to or led by armed struggle, religion has becoming a primary driving force in Israeli militarism. In reference to the dominant settler movements, Feige explains “the fusion of the political and the religious [as a] religious dictim in the eyes of the believers”. In broader terms . . .  the nation’s shift from a “national security religion [to a] national religious culture” favouring the creation and maintenance of a Greater Israel as derived from biblical ideals. It would be wrong to belittle Israel’s emphasis upon security, which still dominates most political and military thinking; as an over-riding concept, and a threat, it is regularly used to enlist the support of secular Jews and alienate Palestinians . . .  emphasis upon a new aggressiveness in the name of religion shows the concept to have altered to mean the security of the Jewish nation and the biblical Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael). This thinking dominates not just the fighting of wars, but it carries with it an ideology that permeates the practice of everyday life . . .  it dominates the form and meaning of major Jewish holy places within the urban character and spatial structure of Jerusalem.
___To a fair extent, and in religious circles, national religious Jews have taken the upper hand from the ultra-orthodox groups, or haredim. The differences between the two are not always distinct, but it is possible to say that generally the latter believe in redemption realised in God’s own time and unaffected by human interference, whereas for national religious adherents, all of the Land of Israel is considered God-given, carrying an obligation for Jews to redeem it by human hands. This may be accomplished by violence if necessary, regardless of who lives there or has previous claims on the land or ownership of property. The difference between the two groups is well summarised by the criticism of national religious groups by a haredi rabbi: “instead of adapting their ideology to Judaism, they wish to adapt Judaism to their ideology.”

❸ ISRAEL  BEGINS  CONSTRUCTION  OF  SEPARATION  WALL  IN  BETHLEHEM-AREA  VILLAGE 
Ma’an News Agency 
Dec. 21, 2017 ― Israeli authorities have reportedly began construction on a portion of Israel’s illegal separation wall on lands of the Tuqu town in eastern Bethlehem, in the southern occupied West Bank, on Thursday.
___Locals told Ma’an that Israeli bulldozers entered the town early Thursday morning and began placing cement blocks in northern Tuqu.
___According to locals, the wall would swallow up what’s left of agricultural lands belonging to the residents of Tuqu, after Israel confiscated large portions of land for the construction nearby illegal settlement of Tekoa.
___Israel’s separation wall, expected to reach 708 kilometers upon its completion — 88 percent of which is planned inside occupied Palestinian territory, is a common sight in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli-installed cement walls and barrier fences zig zag throughout the landscape.    MORE . . . 
.  .  .  .  .  ❸  ―  (ᴀ)  NEW  SYNAGOGUE  UNDER  WESTERN  WALL  UNVEILED,  $50M  TO  BE  ALLOCATED  FOR  “TEMPLE  MOUNT  EXPLORATIONS” 
The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) 
Dec. 20, 2017 ― Israeli authorities, today, unveiled a new Jewish synagogue under Al-Buraq Wall – known to Jews as the Western Wall – in occupied East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.    “Following 12 years of construction, the new synagogue was opened on Monday evening,” the Heritage Foundation of the Western Wall, an Israeli governmental body, said in a statement.
[. . . .]  In a statement, Sheikh Ekrema Sabri, head of Jerusalem’s Supreme Islamic Council and a former Al-Aqsa imam, stressed that the Al-Buraq Wall was a component of the Al-Aqsa’s western wall.
[. . . . ]“All new construction by the [Israeli] occupation authorities in Jerusalem is illegitimate and lacks a historical basis,” Sabri said, adding that the holy city “cannot be partitioned”.    MORE . . .  

“FIRST VISIT TO THE CAMP D’HAISHA, BETHLEHEM,”
BY RABBI RACHEL BARENBLAT

There are no canvas tents.
The buildings don’t look
so bad, standard issue
developing-world
cement block structures

until I try to imagine
eleven thousand people
in one square kilometer,
one in every minyan
an angry alumnus

of the Israeli jails.
What do I know
about settlers or rock-throwers,
one state, two state
impossibilities?

But our grandparents
didn’t escape the ghettos
of Europe’s worst era
only to create new ones
for somebody else.

When we depart
I’m saddened, troubled
but perfectly able
to order a cold beer
and make conversation.

The sorrow and the fury
dormant overnight
explode the next day.
Even Shabbat can’t soothe
my lacerated heart.

From BEFORE THERE IS NOWHERE TO STAND: PALESTINE ISREL POETS RESPOND TO THE STRUGGLE. Ed. By Joan Dobbie and Grace Beeler. Sandpoint ID: Lost Horse Press, 2012.  Available from B&N.
Rachel Barenblat was ordained a rabbi in January 2011 through the Alliance for Jewish Renewal.
She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and is the author of 4 chapbooks of poetry. Her poems have appeared in a variety of journals including The Texas Observer. She lives in western Massachusetts. She blogs as The Velveteen Rabbi. For her observations of the situation in Palestine, see her post from 2014.

 

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