Thursday, December 23, 2010

O Holy Night: Beaten and jailed in Bethlehem...

My local classical radio station is currently playing "O Holy Night" -- as I sit here in front of my computer and read an e-mail from a friend of mine in Bethlehem, the place where Jesus Christ was born.

"Israeli soldiers have just gassed, beaten and arrested eight Palestinians at a village just outside of Bethlehem where they were nonviolently protesting the IDF's illegal seizure and bulldozing of their land. And while being detained, the peaceful protesters tried to speak to the soldiers about international law, but the soldiers were saying that they don't give a f--- about international law and Palestinians, and that they only care about obeying orders." Then the IDF soldiers and some private security personnel released tear gas and pepper spray on the unarmed villagers.

"And then the soldiers arrested eight of the protesters, including an older gentleman, two teenagers, a woman and a university professor. Some of them were beaten. One of them was badly beaten on the back of his neck, shoulders and abdomen."

What would the Prince of Peace think of all this -- happening right there in His own home town? Even I myself am having big trouble wrapping my brain around all this violence in Christ's birthplace and can't even imagine what Jesus, a rabbi himself, would be thinking about all these violent, illegal and brutal actions and greedy land-grabs that are taking place within miles of the very spot where Mary gave birth in a stable.

And now my radio is playing "Ave Maria". I can't take much more of this. Hearing about all this illegal and vicious violence against unarmed people taking place in the very town where Jesus was born -- and just two days away from the day of His birth -- is making me very sad.

"Joy to the World" plays next.

But what is even sadder still is that as far back as 2002, I have been writing blog essays in protest against this very same type of authoritarian and illegal viciousness against unarmed protesters trying to protect their lives and homes in Bethlehem. And here it is, eight years later, and nothing has changed. How much more of this cruelty and oppression can these poor people take!

Here's a video of the arrested university professor's description of what happened to him a few days before Christmas, both while he was at the demonstration and when he was in jail:

"An Israeli soldier named Almog Kahalani was very rough with the prisoners," continued my friend's e-mail report. "He beat the two young Palestinian men, causing one of them to double over in pain. Three of the prisoners had metal handcuffs, and the rest were tied with plastic handcuffs that were very tight and causing circulation problems. One young man's handcuffs were unbearably tight but Israeli soldiers refused to loosen them. The prisoners were also sprayed with hoses and forced to remain cold and wet and hungry and without bathroom facilities."

And all these Palestinian villagers were doing was protecting their homes. And trying to be like Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi -- and like Christ.

Happy Christmas.

Then my radio started playing "Silent Night". May you also sleep in heavenly peace, all you citizens of Bethlehem, because you obviously aren't gonna get any peace here in Palestine -- or any sleep either. That is, not if you are a Palestinian Christian living in a small village outside of Bethlehem just three days before Christmas.

"O little town of Bethlehem, how still I see you lie...."

PS: I also just received another tragic eye-witness account of what is happening in Gaza this week. "Israeli F16s have been bombing Gaza (8+ times) since the early hours of yesterday and it continued till the early hours of 2day! Major explosions, many ambulances rushing 2 many places, 3 injured 4m which 1 is critical! Drones r roaming over us 24\7! I guess they wanna remind us that the attack on Gaza's 2nd anniversary is around the corner!"

Yeah, and so is the 2010th anniversary of the Prince of Peace's birth. Sigh.