"Israel’s Christmas gifts to Bethlehem this year serve 
towards consolidating the separation between Bethlehem and its twin city, 
Jerusalem; the city where
Jesus was born and the city where he 
was resurrected"

Le Petit Prince
By Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
How can we learn from children dealing with adversity? There were many
images that shock us almost daily. The Palestinian child splayed on the
beach in Gaza with his tiny body ripped by Israeli bullets. In 2015 it was
of a Syrian child with the same pose, face down in the sand having drowned
in the Mediterranean. About the same time, Palestinian children where being
killed (two were burned alive) How much pain can people take? How can we
think of the dictatorial leaders of countries like the very rich Arab gulf
states and Egypt closing their eyes to this suffering which they help
perpetuate. We can reflect on these painful episodes of man's inhumanity to
fellow human beings. We can focus on the greed and the corruption and the
cruelty that we face daily (five Palestinians killed here during the two
days of Christmas). But I really do not want to do that any more.  As this
year comes to a close and a new year begins, I reflect on value of good
deeds and then reflect on other living children.

When Israel demolished a Palestinian home in Nablus recently in an act of
collective punishment as they do routinely, good people (most of them poor)
donated thousands within 24 hours for rebuilding). "Good Samaritans" are
everywhere and I meet them every day. I am so grateful to them for making
the lives of people around them better. Those who give of themselves and in
so doing enrich themselves. It is hard to describe how motivating it is to
see hundreds of good people giving to good causes that try to better the
lives of fellow creatures on earth. Some challenge oppression  to the point
of sacrificing their lives to push for the freedom of others. Others donate
to help suffering people. Some gave up their careers to work with refugees
desperately clinging to life.  Sometimes we can lose faith in humanity. But
as a biologist, I find new adaptations and new life especially hopeful.
Spring is coming earlier today in Palestine (perhaps because of the global
warming). A small bird manages to survive a broken wing. A lizard
regenerated its tail. A flower blossoms. A new seed sprouts. A new human
birth (a miracle). One surviving child in particular gave us so much hope.
Every once in a while we see a video chronicling the progress in recovery
of the surviving Dawabsha child (he was severely burned, his mother,
father, and younger sibling all perished in the Jewish settler arson
attack). We see his grandfather able to solicit the beautiful smile and
even laughter and we say: there is hope in humanity. I see a hungry child
share his bread with another hungry child with a smile. I remember how one
child from Aida refugee camp whose mother was killed by Israeli soldiers
once told me and another adult that "Do not worry, Palestine will be free".
I remember and reread the story of "The Little Prince" (Le Petit Prince by
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; I have a collection of it in many languages) and
I am reminded when tough times fall (and they do more and more often) that
we need to tap the little child inside us. Children still have the
idealism, kindness, social connection, and hope that adults seem to loose.

For me personally, many people harmed me or tried to do harm to me in 2015
ranging from Israeli soldiers and settlers to deluded Palestinians. To such
all I hope we all say: we do not hate you and we do forgive you. It does
not mean we will stop working for justice or challenging oppression and
corruption. It is actually our (positive) way of doing so. We call on you
to join the ever increasing circle of people who light a candle instead of
cursing the darkness.  They know that doing good without expecting any
return is the most enriching experience in life. Working for a bigger cause
than one self is the best and most healthy way to live. It is the essence
of true happiness.

In this same spirit, Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michael Sabbah wrote in the
Israeli paper Haaretz a meaningful message to Israeli leaders:  "Israel’s
Christmas gifts to Bethlehem this year serve towards consolidating the
separation between Bethlehem and its twin city, Jerusalem; the city where
Jesus was born and the city where he was resurrected – the essence of the
Christian faith. Aside from the daily violations that the besieged
Bethlehem suffers as a result of the occupation, Israel issued a military
order last week announcing that it has confiscated 101 dunams of
Bethlehem’s northern lands. In the same week, the Israeli government
approved the expansion of the illegal settlement of Gilo - built on
privately owned lands of Bethlehem - by 891 new housing units....Despite
Israel’s claim that it is the only country in the Middle East where
Christians prosper, the unspoken message it sends on the ground is that it
has no respect whatsoever for their rights as Palestinians and for their
existence in their homeland....Bethlehem is now either a symbol for peace,
or war. I invite the Israeli leaders to make it a symbol for peace and for
a new just approach for Palestinians. Palestinians deserve the full
achievement of their inalienable rights..."

"But Jesus said, Allow little children, and forbid them not, to come unto
me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
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