At this Christmas season, followers of Jesus, who is known by many as the Jewish Messiah, are remembering His birth, over two thousand years ago.
The biblical record recounts that a humble carpenter named Joseph, from the village of Nazareth in Israel’s northern region of Galilee, had to go to be registered for Roman taxation, in the city of his fathers. He took Mary, his pregnant wife, with him to his distant family hometown in Judea. Bethlehem, the birthplace of the famous Jewish King David, was located in the hills, just south of Jerusalem. And there, “Mary’s Boy Child” was born.
All of these personalities and geographic references are important to that famous, historical account. This birth and those people and places were real. You and I can visit the land and locations where this story occurred. Carefully!
You see the land where the announcing angels sang to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest! And on earth peace, goodwill toward men,” is not a place of peace today for many men, women and children. Innocent people have to be on the alert for terrorists, who may want to shoot or stab them or aim cars or throw rocks at them. “Goodwill” between Arabs and Jews is often rare and expensive.
Last week, tens of thousands of Arab Palestinians took to the streets of the Gaza Strip to mark the 29th anniversary of the founding of the violent Islamist resistance-movement, Hamas. As in previous years, the Palestinian rallies were held to reaffirm Hamas’ warrior strategy of continued jihad (Islamic holy war) and violent “armed resistance” until Israel has been defeated, destroyed, and displaced—from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Rather than progressing toward pragmatism and moderation, after nearly 3 decades of violence and misery for its people, another message emerged from the rallies: Hamas will never recognize Israel’s right to exist. Khalil Al-Haya, a senior Hamas official, explained, “We will not recognize Israel because it will inevitably go away. And we will not backtrack on the option of armed struggle until the liberation of all Palestine.”
Many Palestinians see the 2005 Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and other unilateral gestures of “land for peace” as proof of weakness and capitulation, rather than positive signs testifying to Israel’s peaceful intentions. These “concessions for peace” by Israel further increases Palestinians’ appetite for launching armed attacks against Israel’s citizens. Today, many Palestinians are convinced that they can achieve more through stabbings, vehicular ramming and shooting attacks than sitting with Israel at the negotiating table. Many Arab Palestinians continue to believe that violence is the way to defeat the Jewish people.
Meanwhile, two weeks ago, in Israel’s “West Bank” (the historic Jewish areas of Samaria and Judea), aging Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas spoke before the 7th Congress of Fatah, in Ramallah. He declared, “What has been achieved so far is a small jihad, and the big jihad is still awaiting us.”
Apparently, the anti-Semitic PA president was referencing his ongoing diplomatic efforts in the international arena to isolate and delegitimize Israel. He wants to force it to withdraw fully to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines, when Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip and Jordan illegally occupied the “west bank” of the Jordan River, including eastern Jerusalem and the “Temple Mount,” which is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Ultimately, Abbas wants to avoid direct peace negotiations with Israel and achieve unilateral recognition in the UN of a Palestinian state. Believing that his “diplomatic jihad” against Israel is no less effective than the Hamas jihad of violent terrorism, Abbas keeps the Palestinians stirred up over Jewish and Christian visits to the Temple Mount. He claims these “impure” visitors are “desecrating” the holy site. Although no Jew has entered the mosque itself, he states that Palestinians will not allow Jews to “defile with their filthy feet” the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Some historic and mainline churches in the U.S. and Europe boast they are “just-peace churches.” But, instead of supporting justice and peace, they defend random violence and mass murderers. They treat Palestinian terrorism, from single stabbings to bold bombings, as mere responses to Israeli “unjust and disproportional” aggression — a total reversal of historical fact. Christ said “Blessed be the peacemakers,” yet some Christian churches and denominations are deceived and actually choose to bless men (and women, and even children) of violence.
Since the Oslo Accords went into effect in 1995, the number of Arab Christians in Israel has drastically fallen. These professing Christians (many with family ties there dating back to the 1st Century) have left homes and businesses to flee from the religious persecution and discrimination in the West Bank, Gaza, and Islamic controlled towns in Israel, such as Nazareth, due to aggression by extremist Muslims and the Palestinian authorities.
Israel’s beloved and early Prime Minister Golda Meir, is quoted as saying, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
The angel’s announcement of “peace toward men of goodwill,” will not be possible in Palestine or anywhere else, until Jesus of Nazareth returns to earth, as the “Prince of Peace.” In that day He will reign as the King of Kings, with justice, peace and mercy for every man, woman and child who will follow Him—forevermore!
Perhaps Harry Belafonte’s Calypso-styled, Christmas melody, about “Mary’s Boy Child,” says it well:
“Trumpets sound and angel’s sing, listen to what they say,
That man will live forevermore, because of Christmas day.”