AT-TUWANI REFLECTION: The birth of Jesus and occupations

29 December 2007
AT-TUWANI REFLECTION: The birth of Jesus and occupations

by Art Gish

It was a warm, sunny Christmas day in the South Hebron Hills. My Christian
Peacemaker teammate and I spent the morning with an At-Tuwani villager and
his children plowing and sowing wheat with two donkeys. Flocks of sheep
were on the hills around us, an ideal setting for thinking about the birth
of Jesus. We were there in solidarity with people facing possible attacks
from the occupiers, from the people with guns, from those who wield worldly
power. We were standing with the shepherds, with the dispossessed--people
like those to whom the angels announced good news 2,000 years ago.

We were working in a narrow valley just below the village of Sarura, which
its inhabitants had abandoned in 1999 because of repeated attacks from
Israeli settlers. The family we were accompanying had lived in Sarura. The
father showed us the cave he used to live in and a Roman coin he found
there. Originally, Sarura was a Roman village. The Roman caves are still
there, as are the ruins of Roman houses. I thought of the Roman occupiers
at the time of Jesus.

What has changed since the Roman occupation of Palestine? In spite of God's
revelation in Jesus, people still rely on violence and oppression, still
reject the promise of peace on earth as a gift from God. People still seek
to dominate and control.

The family gave the donkeys a break and a snack of the wheat they were
helping plant. We broke bread, drank tea together, and experienced a bit of
God's peace in the midst of conflict over land and resources.