During these Twelve Days of Christmas my thoughts have been occupied with the birth of Jesus. According to Matthew, Chapter 2, and Luke, Chapter 2, Jesus was born in Bethlehem during the reign of Herod the Great, which was from 37 B.C. to 4 B.C. The Roman emperor Pompeii conquered the area of Palestine, which included Bethlehem, in 63 B.C. Bethlehem is an ancient city whose history dates back a thousand years before Christ.
Today Bethlehem is in the West Bank area of Palestine about ten kilometers south of modern day Israel, which was carved out of Palestine in 1948 by the United Nations.
Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem. Bethlehem was then and is now in the country of Palestine. Some who wish to deny ancient or biblical or Roman or contemporary borders may cling to the fiction that Palestine never existed and Bethlehem today is part of the so-called “Palestinian Authority”. Such legerdemain simply pours fuel on the conflagration that is the Middle East. Call it a rose or call it a thorn; Palestine is Palestine.
Just as so many who reach our shores from foreign lands know, if your child is born in the United States, he/she is an American citizen. Ergo, either Jesus was born and died a Palestinian or, if one is a believer, Jesus was born and still is a Palestinian.
When the National Judicial College had me teach fourteen Palestinian judges and lawyers, including Palestine’s Attorney General who lived in Bethlehem, I found them evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. The Attorney General was Palestinian Christian and very proud to live in the “Little Town” of Jesus’s birth. He held out hope the Prince of Peace would return and bring peace to His birthplace and the world.
In this season of hoped for peace, my thoughts have turned to the origin of our troubles in the Middle East. Until the country of Palestine was occupied by forces enabled by our power and money, America had no problems with Palestinians. There was and is no just reason for us to help oppress Palestinians. We have somehow gradually stumbled our way into a morass of injustice and intrigue.
It would be interesting to see what today’s government of Israel would do with a group of rabble rousers such as the twelve apostles as led by that radical Palestinian, Jesus. Would Jesus today, just as Jesus two thousand years ago, be arrested at the behest of the Israeli hierarchy and held in jail?
Perhaps the people of contemporary Jerusalem would call for the release of some other alleged criminal, such as a contemporary Barabbas, and call for the crucifixion of Jesus as a terrorist. If so, would we in America finally have the scales fall from our eyes or would we play the part of new Romans and be complicit? At a minimum, now that we find ourselves in this deep hole, maybe we should at least stop digging.
Anyway, Merry Twelve Days of Christmas to all and to all a peaceful New Year.