My Christmas Wish in the Darkness
As Christmas nears, I am tired, out of breath. Things seem so dark, hopeless and helpless. I have little encouragement to offer you this month. And I am an optimist if you compare me to most of my friends who are even more grim than I.
The past few months have been the hardest of my life. It is a time of uncertainty, fear, struggle. It’s so hard, and as I think of who to blame, I can only think of everyone on both sides of our terrible, intractable, never-ending conflict. In my peacebuilding work with Israelis and Palestinians, I learned that I cannot dwell on my victimhood as it perpetuates my own suffering and distorts my view of the other. I am trying so hard not to see myself as a victim, but I feel I’m barely succeeding.
I am completely overwhelmed with the violent actions and images that have bombarded us over the past few weeks and months. I cannot understand why so many of our children are killed. Yes, I call them “our children,” while Israeli media quickly labels them “terrorists.” No, I do not support their violent actions, but I do understand that their violence stems from frustration and hopelessness. This is not justification, simply an exercise in empathy. I understand Israelis are afraid, as are my Israeli friends who have also been minutes away from terrible attacks. What I do not understand is the excess, the number of times these children are shot for wielding a knife, even when they are completely surrounded by armed soldiers.
I am angry and depressed at the collective punishment imposed on hundreds and thousands of innocents. If one Palestinian threatens, injures or kills an Israeli, his whole village and the surrounding area will pay the price -- grandparents, fathers, mothers and children. Angry soldiers will pour into the area eager to make life difficult, close main roads, make access to hospitals off of main roads challenging, and impose closures on villages. Permits are cancelled, mothers and children harassed. They believe they are teaching a lesson, but to the oppressed it becomes a motive and misguided justification for revenge.
In spite of all this darkness, I manage to muster a Christmas wish for myself, for my people, for you. My fellow Palestinians, my neighboring Israelis, we each think our situation is awful, and indeed, it is. Yet we need only glance across nearby borders, and the situation is so much worse as thousands have lost work, homes, and even their country. In spite of what we are going through, we can find a way to shoulder the burden of someone else’s pain.
As Christians preparing for Christmas, we can misplace our focus on the tree, gifts and Santa rather than what all these symbolize. Instead, let us find a way to give a gift to those who are truly in need, those who have less than us, and I am sure if you look around you, you will quickly find someone with less.
My Christmas wish is that this December will be a time of AWAKENING, where each of us, no matter our own situation, awakens, determined to do something against poverty, injustice, inequality, humiliation and evil. I challenge you, my dear readers, to find an organization, a family, a child you can bless. Often when we look to help others, we find that our own suffering is abated, and we can find peace in the moment of giving. God is a living God, he hears our cries, and he may very well seek to use you to meet the cries of another.