Wednesday, December 16, 2009

not a Christmas story

the way to the manger today. Bethlehem.

Our good friends, Enam and Mohammed, spend time in Bethlehem with their family. As you can see it is not easy getting in or out of Bethlehem.

The other day I read that some people are serious about a white Christmas, that is, literally keeping it white. White skinned. Not just snow. Some Italians from Verona got really irate to see a dark skinned Jesus in a manger. Hadn't they realized that Jesus was not born in Stockholm? And why are all the angels I see on Christmas cards white skinned, too?

Meanwhile, just outside of Bethlehem, Ellen Cantarow explains that apricot trees have been pulled out to make way for a sewage dump for illegal Israeli settlers. She also reports that the beautiful old Palestinian architecture of arches and vaulted ceilings is disappearing, replaced by block housing for Israeli settlers, and because of increasing land dispossession, Palestinians can only built up, adding to the cinder block look of homes:

In a field near the village Artas, south of Bethlehem, stands a mammoth rectangle of cement surrounding two giant circles of piping. This was to be an Israeli sewage dump, part of a waste project servicing the Israeli colony Efrat and neighbor-colonies to Bethlehem’s south and west. Stop the Wall and Artas villagers are litigating against the sewer in Israel’s Supreme Court. The case is still pending.

60 apricot trees once grew where the cement and pipe sections now rise. They were on a trajectory leading straight through Artas’s 182-dunam green belt (a dunam is a little over a quarter-acre). Over twenty kinds of vegetables flourish in this rich agricultural matrix. Abu Swayk said it would all be destroyed by the sewage dump, the run-off cascading down and permeating the fertile land. As it stands, the sewage housing seems just a nibble into a small plot of land. But think: Israel wants to dump the colonists’ excrement where people once raised crops for their living. Moreover, since 1967 such “small” confiscations have been a motor force driving the Greater Israel – the Jewish state’s continuous expansion beyond its borders.

I remember the West Bank in the 80s when I reported here regularly. The landscape was Mediterranean, rippling with dry-wall terracing; olive trees’ silvery leaves billowed in the wind; fruit and nut trees and grape arbors etched darker greens against the grey of stones and taupe colors of earth. You could still see old Arab architecture in West Bank villages – beautiful pale stone with rounded arches over doors and windows; vaulted ceilings within homes. There were scattered colonies, but none of the sprawling suburbs and whole cities that slice and dice the region now.

Returning here in 2002 after a fourteen-year absence was like waking up in another country. The hills were freighted with bland, California-style urban sprawl buttressed by a vast prison network for containing the natives whose presence so annoys the Greater Israel -- the wall in its early forms, huge holding-pens called “checkpoints,” mazes of other barriers, and Jewish-only super-highways that made me feel I was somewhere in New Jersey. The state of the villages was also a shock: Israel almost never lets Palestinians build beyond their urban limits, so Palestinian expansion can only be vertical. New, Palestinian multi-storey buildings, so different from the traditional one-to-two-storey village architecture, are as faceless – ugly, even - as the colonies.

Q: How many Palestinians lost the right to live in East Jerusalem/Al Quds last year?

A: Some 4,577 Palestinians had their residency rights revoked in 2008, according to the Israeli Interior Ministry.

Q: What percentage of people in Gaza suffer food insecurity?
A: progressive deterioration in food security for up to 70 per cent of Gaza's population.

Q: how many Palestinians in Israeli jails?
A: More than 11,500 Palestinians, including women and children, are currently imprisoned in Israeli detention facilities under harsh and life-threatening circumstances.


marja-leena said...

Not a Christmas story, indeed. Makes me both angry and very sad. The inhumanity of man....

northshorewoman said...

We seem not to learn lessons from history. The disparities between people and among different groups are growing. Whole chunks of existence are made invisible to us. Palestine only makes the news if there's some sort of immediate crisis--or that we in the West define as such. I read today that there is a possible arrest warrant for war crimes to be issued against Tzipi Livni if she enters England.Of course, I read this on online news; this sort of thing is not mentioned on tv news or the newspapers in Canada, or if it is it is marginal, buried somewhere and difficult to find. I find it ironic that in Canada we blocked George Galloway from entering Canada (Galloway who has been doing work to try and end Palestinian suffering in Gaza), yet in England they are trying to block the war criminals. So we block those working for humanity, while groups in England are working to block those guilty of crimes against humanity.

It's these sorts of contradictions that seem to become so clear during Christmas and its construction as a time of peace and goodwill. My mom always buys cards with some bye-gone images of Jesus's birth in Bethlehem, but she is not interested in what's happening there now. She has only an imagined Holy Land in her mind and heart. The realities of that land, well, she doesn't want anything to do with.

that bothers me.

Ari said...

I saw the same cement structure at a tv-program last week. The program told about palestinians living near Bethlehem. In that area the Israelian settlers were a big threat to Palestinians when they were reaping their olive harvests. There were also Israelian soldiers guarding because of the settlers and Israelian volunteers helping the Palestinians to plock their olives.
Because of the program it was very easy to infer that the time for Jesus to be born for 2000 years ago
was much safer than it would be now.