Merry Christmas in Bethlehem: All Hope is Not Lost, Despite the Israeli Occupation

“O little town of Bethlehem” – lives under occupation. This occupation isn’t new, but holidays make people more emotional and people tend to see the suffering of others more clearly. This year, this video (posted below) along with a message from a friend of mine abroad, reminded me once again of why this issue is so important to me. I received a message early yesterday morning from a good friend of mine who wanted some advice on traveling in the Middle East since it is her first time there. She wanted to be in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. Hours ago, she attended mass at the Church of the Nativity but unlike others around her, occupation doesn’t permeate her life and she will soon return to her job.

With the success of the Palestine bid at the United Nations and the subsequent approval of more settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, peace and an end to occupation seems farther away. The issue of settlements has been a sticking point in the past for the negotiations process. A casual read through some of the Palestine Papers reveals Israeli requests to keep the majority, if not all, of their settlements and join them into Israel for less than equal land swaps. In addition, the wall of separation serves as another stealer of land, while also restricting movement and trade.

“O little town of Bethlehem” – I pray that peace finds you. This year, we should all hope that Santa brings a viable solution. Actually, the Geneva Intiative provides that. So this year, I hope that Santa brings the compassion and the political will that brings leaders to the table in good faith with willingness to compromise. The search for a perfect solution is futile in an unequal and less than ideal situation. The reality on the ground prevents a “perfect” solution. What is needed is a reasonable, practical, and just solution that provides for self-determination, freedom, peace, and security. Maybe it’s optimism or the spirit of Christmas, but all hope is not lost and this is not impossible.