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
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
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.