O Little Town of Who Cares?

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By Ray Hanania

rayhananiacolumnbox1Every Christmas, I always hear the same conflicting arguments.

On the one hand, people tell me, “Stop saying ‘Happy Holidays.’ It’s ‘Merry Christmas’. If you don’t like it, move.”

The point being that they presumably are proud of being Christian. And, since Christmas is a Christian holiday, they want people to acknowledge it directly and not bury it in a more generic greeting that is sensitive to the non-Christians who also live in America.

Yet, at the same time, these same “Christians” who insist on saying “Merry Christmas,” don’t really care for their Christian brethren who live under Israeli occupation in Bethlehem.

American Christians seem to care. At Christmas time, they place pictures of Bethlehem and icons of Jesus and the Virgin Mary throughout their homes. They even sing hymnals to the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem, in songs like “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

I can just hear the inspiring melody in just saying the words.

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Pope Francis passing by Israel’s Wall on his way to a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Francis called the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate “unacceptable” as he landed Sunday in Bethlehem (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

But why do they do all of this? Because they care about Christians and are committed to their faith? Or, because it makes it easier to justify the wasteful and excessive spending driven by the true spirit of Christmas, the American economy. Buying power. Spending power. Money. Dollars. Discounts. Sales. Christmas presents.

Christmas isn’t about Christianity any more. It’s about making a fast buck by selling junk. You don’t give someone a present to commemorate the birth of Jesus. You do it because you have been conditioned by years of socialization to associate the spending of your money with the winter holiday sales season.

This isn’t Christmas. This is wrapping paper. Holiday cards with cute, hackneyed cliches and meaningless expressions.

We want to be warm and fuzzy, and get lots of presents. So who cares if Israeli soldiers are jack-booting Christians out of their homes and lands in Bethlehem?

I’m Christian. Probably more Christian than most. My ancestors are Jewish Christians from Bethlehem and Jerusalem. We trace our ancestors to Biblical times, and to Jesus, who I like to joke, is my cousin. After all, we’re from the same town. O Little Town of Bethlehem.

My family owns land in Bethlehem in what is today called the West Bank — almost nine acres, or 33 dunam, using the old land-measuring system. But in the 1970s, Israel destroyed the home on my family’s Bethlehem land, destroyed the little farm, destroyed the road and sealed the water well so that they could build Gilo.

Right now, my land is nestled in the Gilo “shoehorn” in the valley under the new homes that have been built for Jewish-only residents.

Such is the fate of being a Christian these days.

Doesn’t matter that my ancestors were Jews who converted to Christianity to follow the teachings of Jesus, who was a Jewish Rabbi and the founder of the Christian Church. He died in Jerusalem, where my father’s family lived and where Christians are also being expelled from their lands and homes.

In fact, in 1948, my dad’s family was expelled from their home in West Jerusalem. They weren’t Jewish. They were Christians. They lived in a refugee camp for a few years in Jordan until my father, living in Christian America, could help bring them to Chicago.

To me, as a true Christian, this “holiday season” is shameful.

It’s not about Jesus. It’s not about Christianity. It’s not about justice, righteousness or even turning the other cheek. It’s about one big lie.

Christianity for some Americans is just an excuse to brow beat someone else, especially if that someone else isn’t a Christian at all.

Americans are probably the most anti-Semitic people on the planet. They have always hated Jews. It’s just that they hate Muslims more today, so they tolerate Jews, as long as they don’t live in their neighborhoods, and move to Israel. Which is the reason why so many probably support Israel.

Wasn’t it America that turned away Jewish immigrants fleeing the persecution of European Christians, called Nazis, during World War II, forcing them to go to Palestine? There was no way they were going to allow a massive influx of Jewish people into America. Not if the politicians of that era could help it.

Why do you think it took so long for America to enter the war against Nazi Germany? It took a Japanese surprise attack that wasn’t really that much of a surprise — well, it was expected, anyway — more than two years after World War II began for America to enter the war.

My dad and his brother fought in that war against the Nazis, in the U.S. 5th Army and in the U.S. Navy. They were proud to be Americans. And, they were proud to be true Christians.

Something you don’t find much of these days today in America.

God bless you, Tiny Tim. At least you got that big turkey!

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM

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