December 2012

 

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Christmas Message

Joint Advocacy Initiative
 

In this season of Christmas, let us remember the story of the shepherds keeping watch over their flock and the visit from the angles of the Lord proclaiming the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ singing songs of peace and hope. While the landscape of the shepherd’s field has changed, the message of hope has not. Today the constant threat of harassment, imprisonment and land confiscation make seeing hope in this place of the message of hope difficult. However, with this Christmas season, the shepherd’s field brings a renewed call of hope and peace for the world.

As history has been witness, our struggle has seen periods of reduced violence followed by periods of escalated violence. On Nov. 14, Israel initiated a campaign of aggression towards our people in Gaza. This most recent wave of aggression resulted in 165 deaths, including 43 children and six women, and 1,200 people injured. Despite the commitment to a ceasefire agreement, the daily threats and damage of the occupation continue.

Just a few hundred meters from the shepherd’s grotto, there exists one such threat. In the place known as Ush Ghrab, a group of extremists, the Women in Green, are staging the establishment of a new Israeli settlement, a settlement whose infrastructure and “security measures” will further threaten the towns of Bethlehem and Beit Sahour. Adding to the more than 21 existing and expanding settlements currently surrounding and constricting Bethlehem, the new settlement at Ush Ghrab will further isolate Beit Sahour by occupying the only land available for the future growth of the community.

The olive tree, an international symbol of peace, continues to be under direct threat of destruction as Israeli settlers and military forces act to expand their sphere of control over Palestinian territory. Not dissimilar to Herod’s campaign to find and kill the baby Jesus, Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza is a campaign to kill the hope and livelihood of steadfast Palestinians who desire to be free in their homeland.

The Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI) continues to take an active part in the ongoing effort to maintain and plant trees that have become victims of the occupation. May we suggest the sponsorship of an olive tree through the JAI’s Olive Tree Campaign in honor of someone you love this Christmas season. This living symbol of hope will not only help a Palestinian farmer but will also serve as a visual reminder to the world that hope cannot be killed.

While the situation is bleak, the people of Palestine stand together in proclaiming their right to stay on the land on which they have lived for centuries. Through continued and renewed campaigns of non-violent resistance, the people of Palestine seek to continue to be messengers of peace, hope and justice.

The birthplace of Jesus Christ has become an open-air prison. Without the support and intervention of the international community, there is little hope for this sacred place. We humbly ask our friends and partners around the world to offer a special prayer for the people of Palestine and for our efforts to keep hope alive. We ask you to act against all the injustices we live under so we may be liberated from oppression and live in peace with justice.

We wish all of our friends and partners around the world a happy and joy-filled Christmas season. May we all be blessed to see peace and hope in the world around us. Merry Christmas!


* The Joint Advocacy Initiative is a program of the East Jerusalem YMCA and the YWCA of Palestine that was created in January 2001to advocate for peace with justice in the occupied Palestinian territories.