Creating people's geographies
For suitable exclamatory effect, you might wish to pronounce “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” in an Irish accent: it just sounds better. If you glance to the right you’ll notice a thumbnail of a Christmas card I found while breezing through the shops the other day. It depicts a clearly Semitic looking J, M and J. One doesn’t begrudge the Christ-figure being depicted in a variety of ways for all His followers, but it was nice to see these Nazarenes of Middle Eastern-appearance actually look it — Middle Eastern, that is.
I would like to extend dear friends and all who come by here a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful festive season.
Seasons Greetings to you and yours.
May your holidays be happy, safe and enjoyable.
In his post ‘The Winter Solstice‘, m’learned friend Curtis at CSTF has made the case compellingly for the more inclusive greeting ‘Happy Holidays’. HH is indeed more all-encompassing and I understand his preference. I think HH would also be acknowledged as recognisably North American in origin and has most of its currency there too. You’ll only occasionally hear it in Australia, for example, though it may in time become more prevalent. [Australia and New Zealand have their own peculiarities, of course, with selective Anglo-American influences. Australians increasingly say ‘high school’ instead of secondary school (US influence) but still say ‘primary school’ rather than ‘elementary’. New Zealanders tend to say ‘cell phones’ (US influence) but have adopted the UK domain .co protocol rather than the .com — Australians call cell phones mobiles and have the .com in their domains.]
I’ve noticed that Muslim and Jewish friends tend to extend the ‘Merry Christmas’ greeting too in the same way Christians would extend to them a Happy Eid or Hanukkah; well, I wholeheartedly accept any sincere warm greeting and expression of good will according to the person’s own preference. As our favourite pastor, Monte reasonably notes in a comment to his post on a Raymond J. Lawrence’s piece entitled ‘Liberating Christmas From Christianity‘: “Fighting over secularism stealing the season, since the Christians stole it from pagans in the first place, seems a little silly.”
As part of my own Christmas tradition, each year at this time I focus on its geographic epicentre: Palestine. The plight of Gaza in particular occupies [no pun intended!] my attention a good deal of the time, but during Christmastime I find it particularly symbolic to highlight this important cause, one that is so close to my heart. While I have managed to keep away from one of my favourite hobbies, blogging, for four consecutive months, broken by a few commemorative posts in my ostensibly offline/ off-blogging period in celebration of the Free Gaza Movement (FGM)’s courageous efforts to break the siege of Gaza, it would be remiss of me to break this tradition.
[It is, in fact, high time, to let free a raft — perhaps a flotilla — of draft posts and unstick the sticky post that has been lodged there too long, though after this round the next posting may not be for some time yet in early 2009.]
Just a couple of days ago, the amazing and wonderful activists of the FGM landed in Gaza for the fifth time, bringing much needed relief and supplies. This time, the Dignity helped sail Qatari activists as well as delivering another ton of medicine, baby formula and gifts. At least three more voyages are planned. You can support them in a number of ways such as blogging on the topic and spreading the word, and I’ll append some other support links to this post as well.
A few moments ago I followed a link from Monte’s site to Disclosing New Worlds, and was moved to find recognition of the plight of Palestinians in this sermon on Bethlehem given by the Revd Lis Mullen, Minister, Carver United Reformed Church, Windermere, as adapted from Zoughbi Zoughbi, of Wi’am, the Palestinian Conflict Resolution Centre in Bethlehem:
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Ancient Bethlehem used to be a modest walled town,
an oasis at the edge of a wilderness that stretches to the Dead Sea.
The entire ancient town is now contained within the walls of the Church of the Nativity.
Bethlehem grew over the centuries,
prospering as a city of pilgrimage
and, since Thomas Cook’s package tours started in the 19th Century,
it’s also prospered as a modern holiday destination.
It was once a thriving, open city:
it is now sealed behind a wall,
imprisoning the 170,000 Christian and Muslim citizens,
while annexing their forests, farmlands and fresh-water springs to the Jewish settlements.
Bethlehem began life as a walled citadel, and will end as a prison town
and yet, as you drive out through the gate you can see the message written in huge letters by the Israeli tourist board:
‘Peace be upon you.’
Oh wake up baby Jesus and look around at your birthplace.
The town is shrinking, – the land is even smaller than it was at your birth.
Has it refused development and progress?
Or is it because it is surrounded by an 8 metre-high wall and watchtowers, with 78 physical obstacles and checkpoints
and 18 settlements on confiscated land all around the Bethlehem area.
Herod was frightened of you then, baby Jesus
and he’s frightened of you now.
You are besieged.
Your Grotto has been changed to a ghetto.
But you always refused to be contained.
Death could not contain you and we know that resurrection is inevitable.
No wall, no checkpoints, no watch towers or settlements,
no terrorism can ever stop you from transforming people’s lives and minds and hearts.
Read in full here
Occupied Bethlehem is in a bad way, and I have focused upon this Palestinian town in the past. It is Gaza, however, that is really in dire straits in the inhumane siege the Israeli hafrada regime has imposed in contravention of international law as well as moral norms. The blockade means that 1.5 million Gazans in the Israeli-created ghetto are besieged, hungry (some are eating wild grass), trapped and terrorised. The lobbing of ineffectual rockets by a small number does not in any way justify the collective punishment and starvation of a whole people. There are voices of reason amid this catastrophe: it is heartening to see that the Boston Globe carries this piece by Yousef Munayye, for example, and Ha’aretz the rare voice of journalistic integrity, Gideon Levy, in his ‘Talk to Hamas‘.
A submission has also been lodged at the Hague by ICAI-HOKOK just a fortnight ago, the draft of which you can read in full here (25pp .pdf), and to which I contributed a bibliography of current Gaza-related sources. The International Criminal Court (ICC) Submission charges Israel and five of its leaders with egregious violations of International law and the Rome Statute stemming from its continuing blockade of Gaza.
Mazen Qumsiyeh outlines the following avenues to help, and/ or help spread the word:
Humanitarian aid (can designate for Gaza)
Activism on the ground
(please note that for tax deductible donations from the US, please send you check or wire transfer top SBS with a note to indicate it is “for the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement” and mail to Society for Biblical Studies, 661 Massachusetts Avenue Suite 40, Arlington, MA 02476, http://www.sbsedu.org/)
Thank you to everyone for your valued friendship, correspondence, and readership this year. All the best to you in 2009.