I recently spent some time in the West Bank. On the Separation Wall in Bethlehem are powerful stories written by Palestinian Christians and Muslims about their experiences and how the occupation affects their lives. As we prepare to welcome the Christ child, I would like to share some of the stories from the people living in the place of his birth.
“Each day of the year we look forward to Christmas. Christmas is an entirely different experience in Bethlehem than anywhere else in the world, because this is the place where Jesus was born. The Nativity Church is very special and dear to me. I have been going there since I was a little boy and I feel very blessed that I have the opportunity to spread the message. We continue to pray for hope, practice love and keep alive through our faith. We believe this is a way we can keep our spirits high despite the occupation, making the first step towards peace. ‘Love your enemies’ is what Jesus preached and in his footsteps we must follow.”By Father Issa (at the church of the Nativity)
Following the Star
“As a Moslem woman, I have special memories of Christmas. I remember when I was six year old – it was the Jordanian time (1948-1967) – soldiers of the Jordanian army used to sing beautiful songs the day before Christmas. Our house was close to the Shepherds’ Fields in Beit Sahour. We used to be together with the Christians in praying and reciting until the evening. The Christians and also Moslems from Beit Sahour carried oil lamps while walking barefoot in the evening to Manger Square to commemorate the shepherds who were following the star that led them to the place where the Lord of Peace was born. During Christmas Day, our Christian neighbours knocked on our door and sent cookies and Christmas gifts. During Moslem feast day we sent, in the same spirit, cake, katayef (a kind of pancakes eaten at Ramadam nights) and chocolates. In the week after Christmas, we visited and congratulated Christian Friends.”By Jamile from Beit Sahour (a predominately Christian area just east of Bethlehem)
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