Last January a group from the seminary traveled to Israel-Palestine, where they visited holy sites and spoke with people on both sides of the conflict. Recently a friend shared with me a song they sang while in the Christmas Church of Bethlehem. It was an alternative version of O Little Town of Bethlehem (lyrics below). The lyrics speak of the need to restore peace in the town which represents peace for many Christians at Christmas time. The original lyrics of the song depict Bethlehem as a peaceful place, a place where hope originates, yet that is far from the reality today.
As the Israeli occupation of the West Bank continues to restrict the rights and threaten the lives of the 2.7 million Palestinians who live there peace may seem impossible. The people of Bethlehem, along with the rest of the West Bank and Gaza, have their movement restricted by walls and check points and Israeli only zones and roads, cutting of their access to their farms and livelihoods and preventing them from traveling within their own country (I invite you to learn more about the occupation here). After Trump announced this week that he intends to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as the capital of Israel, it seems that the chance of peace is slipping farther and farther away. Yet Palestinians continue to hold out hope for a just peace, that is, a peace where all people, Palestinians and Israelis receive justice and live in peace with one another.
I invite you to listen to the instrumental version of O Little Town of Bethlehem, consider the words that Christians in Bethlehem sing today, and join me in praying for a just peace for Palestine.
O holy child of Bethlehem,
Descend on us we pray
Your love bring down on David’s town,
Drive fear and hate away
Awake the ire of nations,
Let justice be restored
Rebuild the peace in silent streets
Where once your love was born