“. . . the Bible includes stories of violence and genocide, resembling recent history . . .” (Leonard Marsh)

church-nativity
Ancient mosaics on a wall of the Church of the Nativity uncovered during restoration works by Italian experts at the site, Jul. 19, 2016. (Thomas Coex/AFP)

❶ . Palestinians celebrate Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

  • Background:  “Whose Holy Land?” Studies In World Christianity

❷ . Bethlehem: Nativity church with new shine
❸ . Israel besieges Bethlehem villages in search of stabbing suspect
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❶ . PALESTINIANS  CELEBRATE  CHRISTMAS  EVE  IN  BETHLEHEM  
Ma’an News Agency 
Dec. 24, 2016 – Palestinians marked the occasion of Christmas Eve on Saturday morning in the southern occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem, which is traditionally held as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
___A parade lead by the Latin Patriarch of Palestine, Jordan, and the Holy Land Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who is also the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, are set to arrive in Bethlehem in the afternoon and will be officially received at the Nativity Church in Bethlehem’s Manger Square.     Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah are also expected to arrive in Bethlehem later Saturday to partake in Midnight Mass.    More . . .

  • Marsh, Leonard. “Whose Holy Land?” Studies In World Christianity 15.3 (2009): 276-286.   SOURCE.

[. . . .] . . . [Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Anglican Theologian] sees the 1967 war as a crucial moment in the history of the Israeli state. The occupation . . . was, according to him, attributed by a large percentage of Israelis and many Western Christians as ‘God’s powerful intervention on the side of Israel and against the Arabs’. Ateek realises that the Bible itself can and has been used as an ideological tool in asserting a religious basis for Zionism, originally a secular movement. For Palestinians, the Bible arguably has been used in a way to support injustice and inequality.       ___Understood in a literal way, the Bible appears to Palestinians to justify their enslavement and undermine their hopes for a national homeland. When Christians recite the ‘Benedictus,’ including the words ‘Blessed be the God of Israel,’ Ateek asks what this means. Which Israel is being referred to? What redemption is being promised, and to whom? One problem facing Palestinian Christian Theology simply is a matter of how the Bible itself is to be understood by Palestinian Christians.      [. . . .]  Former Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah . . .  noted we have to struggle in order to maintain and build peace with justice. Interpreting the Bible is a demanding task. Such interpretations concern our very national and personal identities as believers because unilateral, partial interpretations run the risk – for some – of bringing into question their presence and permanence in this land, which is their homeland. Questions to be addressed include, what is the relationship between the Old and New Testaments? The narrative of the Bible includes stories of violence and genocide, resembling recent history which may be attributed to God. How is this to be understood? What is the relationship between ancient Biblical history and contemporary history? Is Biblical Israel to be identified with the state of Israel? . . .  Does the Bible justify current political claims made on its behalf? Could we be victims of our own salvation history, which seems to favour the Jewish people and condemn others?        [. . . .] Mitri Raheb, pastor of the Bethlehem Christmas Lutheran Church . . .  has observed that until the middle of the nineteenth century, the Palestinian churches interpreted the Bible allegorically or typologically. This is no longer possible. The advent of Zionism has made the Old Testament a political text, and made the Bible problematic the moment the modern state of Israel was formed. He also has addressed the question of the Q’uran from an Arab Christian perspective. His intention is to have an understanding of Muslim scripture which would provide the basis for a Christian-Muslim relationship within contemporary Arab society [. . . .]

❷ . BETHLEHEM:  NATIVITY  CHURCH  WITH  NEW  SHINE 
Deutsche Welle 
Dec. 23, 2016 – Every year at Christmas time, people from around the world head for the West Bank city of Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity, where it is believed Jesus was born. This year the church shines more brightly than it has for centuries.
More (video) . . .           Related Video: Attacks cast shadow on Bethlehem Christmas    Background: The Restoration of the Church of Nativity

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

❸ .  ISRAEL  BESIEGES  BETHLEHEM  VILLAGES  IN  SEARCH  OF  STABBING  SUSPECT
Ma’an News Agency
Dec. 24, 2016 – Israeli forces continued to crackdown on Palestinian villages in the southern occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem on Saturday, in search for a man who allegedly stabbed and lightly injured a settler in the illegal Israeli settlement of Efrat southwest of Bethlehem Friday night.     [. . . . ]   There was a heavy presence of Israeli soldiers in several areas across Bethlehem that continued into Saturday morning, with reports of clashes erupting between Palestinians and Israeli forces overnight Friday.       More . . .  

NATIVITY CHURCH MOSAICS
A worker from the Piacenti restoration center works on a mosaic in the Church of the Nativity. (Photo: Jul. 14, 2016 Catholic News Service)

“. . . a voice from a minaret . . . Mingled with church bells . . .” (Yusuf Hamdan)

resistance tree
Tree killed by the Israeli wall turned into Christmas tree, Bethlehem. (Photo: Palestine News Network TV Reports, Dec. 22, 2015)

❶ Days before Christmas, Bethlehem erects ‘resistance tree’ outside Nativity Church
❷ UN adopts resolution on Palestinian sovereignty over natural resources
❸ Bethlehem-area village sealed by Israeli military for weeks
❹ Will PA security turn on Israel?
❺ Opinion/Analysis: Christmas Spirit in Bethlehem
―(ᴀ) Sabeel Christmas Message 2015
❻ Poetry by Yusuf Hamdan
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❶ MONDOWEISS
VIDEO:  DAYS  BEFORE  CHRISTMAS,  BETHLEHEM  ERECTS  ‘RESISTANCE  TREE’  OUTSIDE  NATIVITY  CHURCH
Sheren Khalel and Abed Al Qaisi
Dec. 22, 2015
Tourists, political leaders, activists and residents of Bethlehem gathered right in front of the Nativity Church Thursday night with an unusual message. While December is usually a time for cheerful Christmas celebrations at the Nativity, this year the people of Bethlehem have been unable to put aside the political turmoil for the sake of the holiday.
___With Christmas just days away, the city of Bethlehem erected what they call a “Resistance Tree.” The tree, an olive tree which was recently uprooted by Israeli forces from a nearby neighborhood . . . .
More . . .

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Restoration of the wall mosaics, Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. Photo courtesy of the Presidential Committee for the Restoration of the Church of the Nativity.

MA’AN NEWS AGENCY
UN  ADOPTS  RESOLUTION  ON  PALESTINIAN  SOVEREIGNTY  OVER  NATURAL  RESOURCES
Dec. 23, 2015
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday adopted a resolution demanding Palestinian sovereignty over natural resources under Israeli occupation.
___The draft solution, “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources,” was adopted with 164 votes in favor and five against.
Member states that voted against the measure included Canada. . . Israel. . . and the United States.
More . . .
MA’AN NEWS AGENCY
BETHLEHEM-AREA  VILLAGE  SEALED  BY  ISRAELI  MILITARY  FOR  WEEKS
Dec. 23, 2015
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The movement of residents in Ras Al-Wad southwest of Bethlehem has been cut off for weeks by Israeli military forces, locals said Wednesday.
___A resident told Ma’an that the forces closed off the main entrance to the small village with large mounds of dirt around three weeks ago, and the road has remained closed since.
___The road was used by residents in Ras al-Wad to access a main highway nearby. While they have been able to find an alternate route — a one-way dirt road that connects to the nearby village of Beit Sahour — access to the highway is severely limited, locals said.
More . . .
AL-MONITOR (PALESTINE PULSE)
WILL  PA  SECURITY  TURN  ON  ISRAEL?
Ahmad Abu Amer
Dec. 22, 2015
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Israel is convinced that new developments are about to take place in the West Bank, especially after the killing of Mazen Arabia, a Palestinian intelligence officer accused of opening fire at the Hizma military checkpoint, northeast of Jerusalem, injuring an Israeli soldier Dec. 3. . . .
___This incident, the first of its kind during the uprising in the Palestinian territories, sparked Israeli concerns that other armed Palestinian security officers will engage in similar acts. Therefore, the Israeli government rejected the recommendations of the Israel Defense Forces on Nov. 25 to supply the Palestinian security apparatus with weapons and ammunition to be used to control the situation in the West Bank and face any security developments stirred by Palestinian protesters.
More . . .
Related . . . WILL  STOPPING  SECURITY  COOPERATION  WITH  ISRAEL  BENEFIT  PA?
Opinion/Analysis
THIS WEEK IN PALESTINE
CHRISTMAS  SPIRIT  IN  BETHLEHEM
Muna Nassar
December, 2015
Growing up in Bethlehem, December was the month that I, along with many relatives and friends of mine would passionately await in awe and anticipation. December has and will always be the Sunday of the months, . . . .  December is the star on top of the Christmas tree.
More . . .
❺―(ᴀ) Special for Christmas
SABEEL ECUMENICAL LIBERATION THEOLOGY CENTER
SABEEL  CHRISTMAS  MESSAGE  2015
Naim Ateek
Dec. 17, 2015
When we look at the state of our world today and the messy situation we find ourselves in, it seems ludicrous at this Christmas season to talk about peace on earth . . . and goodwill to all.
___Tragically, we have been witnessing on a daily basis terror vs. terror, military power vs. military power, revenge and counter revenge. . . Jesus Christ seems to have no place in the raging conflicts, and justice does not seem to stand a chance.
___Yet it is precisely in the midst of this terrible world predicament, political turmoil, and human devastation that we must proclaim our commitment to the above virtues.
More . . .

“TO  JERUSALEM,”  BY  YUSUF  HAMDAN

You came to me, chained,
Carried forcibly.
You came
Flowing, like the tears of a wounded heart.
And yet, I will not meet you.
Forgive me,
For today, you are occupied!

Have you indeed come to me?
In my passion, I prayed often
Without a “Rock,”
And when I found no water,
I simulated the ritual ablution;
And when you finally came to me, I vowed:
I will not accept you occupied!

I want you to be a Kaaba for the people of the earth,
A spacious house,
Without guards;
I love you . . . a voice from a minaret,
The sound of horns
Mingled with church bells.
I love you, a jasmine in the open air,
But I have sworn, yes I have,
I will not accept you occupied!

From: THE  PALESTINIAN  WEDDING:  A  BILINGUAL  ANTHOLOGY  OF  CONTEMPORARY  PALESTINIAN  RESISTANCE  POETRY.  Ed. and Trans. A. M. Elmessiri. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2011. Reprint from Three Continents Press, Inc., 1982.
―Available from Palestine Online Store.
Yusuf Hamdan was born in 1942 in the Triangle area of Palestine. He lived in Haifa in the early ‘60s and taught in a nearby Arabic school. He published his poems in al-Jadid, al-Ittihad, and al-Ghad, and lost his teaching position because of his poetry. In 1970 he left Israel for the US, where he presently lives and works.

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Naim Ateek speaks to members of Sabeel Witness Visitors after service at the Greek Orthodox Church in Beit Jala. (Photo: Harold Knight, Nov. 8, 2015)