By Hind Khoury
Even now in 2014, Jesus is still crying over Jerusalem as anguish and injustice continue to prevail.
In this City, three times holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, there are occupiers and occupied, aggressors and aggressed, oppressors and oppressed. Sadly, injustice continues to be committed in the name of God where covenant and laws that bind us to our faith are conveniently overlooked.
As Easter approaches, we try to understand God’s intentions for humanity delivered through the death and resurrection of our Lord. We need to examine again and again our obligations as human beings and as people of faith and conscience. Aren’t the lessons of Easter particularly challenging? Aren’t we guided to pursue the ideals of fellowship, courage, truth, non-violence, sacrifice, repentance, forgiveness and faith?
Is it not our obligation to examine the relevance of these universal ideals to our lives and contexts and try to ‘do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God’ as prophet Micah instructed us to do? Isn’t Jerusalem worthy of our labor and attention so that this city becomes the symbol of peace that is true and just?
Yet in our city we are denied access to our land for life and sustenance. Each one of us is targeted in our very survival and the integrity of our community, as in the integrity of our identity and our culture. Even our memory and our future are being hijacked. All these violations of the most basic God- given and human rights are justified through a culture of exclusion and a discriminatory, racist legal framework conveniently drawn by the authorities of the occupying power. One of the latest such laws, for example, decreed that Palestinian Christians are not Arabs in order to further divide and rule and confuse Palestinian cohesive identity.
Sixty five years since the NAKBA and 46 years since the Israeli occupation in 1967, we continue to suffer the exile of our refugees on one hand and the impasse of the so called ‘peace process’ on the other hand. Our city has become a most intolerable abode: it is a place where a foreign language is forced on us, where our land is expropriated in order to make do for overwhelming Jewish-only settlements, where our historic neighborhoods are strangulated, fragmented and where homes demolished with the excuse that construction breaks the occupiers’ laws.
In our city, we are residents only, with our residency rights revoked for leaving to study or work abroad. We suffer policies that weaken the local economy, that deny us decent housing and increase poverty and unemployment especially among the young and the educated. We endure the disastrous effect of the apartheid wall, built in our midst, separating Palestinians from Palestinians, isolating us from our workplace, schools, hospitals and sites of worship. Our future and the future of our children is in total jeopardy. We are all guilty until proven innocent by the security forces and criminalized for resisting so much hardship, discrimination, exile and siege.
In our city, identity and culture are distorted to further weaken the very fabric of our society. School curriculums impose the occupiers’ narrative, unchecked leakage from our schools amounts to 15%, while drug abuse pervades the city destroying families and killing the future of many of our children. A foreign language is forced on us and our city suffers isolation from its organic extension in the rest of the occupied territories by artificial and concrete walls and barriers.
All these violations including many more are justified in the name of exclusive rights to the land, an arrogant understanding of election, and an unchecked sense of righteousness. As a result, the religious significance of this city, three times holy, is threatened. This culture of exclusion promotes a Jewish God that is different from the Christian or Muslim God, and in the process threatens the essence of monotheism and thousands of years of revelation in this land. This development furthers the abuse of religion for political purposes and contributes to enflaming conflict, polarization
In further escalation and obstruction of all efforts to conclude a fair political peace agreement, the Israeli government is now adamant that no peace can be reached unless we Palestinians recognize Israel as a purely Jewish state. While this demand is a perversion of history and a distortion of the universal values of our monotheistic faiths, it is also a spin of historical facts and of the land’s natural diversity where attaining peace can only be concluded in a culture of inclusion and coexistence.
This new Israeli demand comes to highjack the legitimacy of Palestinians on their land. Other measures include the denial of Palestinian rights to worship especially in Jerusalem. Most Palestinians are forbidden to reach the city for prayers, a reality that is particularly painful to us, as the guardians of religious traditions in the land for millennia. In the last few years Israeli authorities imposed an additional measure by closing off the Old City of Jerusalem especially during Holy Week of Easter under the banner of security, an excuse that Israel regularly uses to justify and deepen its occupation measures. Slowly but surely, as Palestinian Christians are strongly discouraged from the practice of the centuries-old traditions, our holy sites may soon become museums to enrich incoming tourism and the Israeli economy.
As we celebrate this coming Easter we wonder: Isn’t God’s Covenant availed to all his children? Shouldn’t our labor be focused on building the real peace in Jerusalem, the symbol of eternal peace? Shouldn’t this city more than any other proclaim the one and only God, and the Love that guides believers to light unto nations and the salt of the earth?
The world issued enough denouncements and regrets and passed too many resolutions in condemnations of so much injustice. Yet, impunity prevails and so far nothing was concretely done to contain human greed and power mongering of the occupation. Enough is enough. Now is the time for action and righteousness; the time of right over might; the time to build and to heal; the time for justice, honesty and mercy; the time to redeem human dignity and the time to nurture virtue and hope.
For this coming Easter, let us pray and labor for Peace from Jerusalem. If achieved it can help us salvage the true meaning of peace, so far abused to serve material interests and military and economic power. This should be our pledge to a new moral order
that makes us truly human.
Hind Khoury is a Palestinian Christian, a mother of three adults and married to a local architect. She worked for over twenty years in the economic development of the Palestinian Occupied Territories. In 2005 she was appointed as Minister of Jerusalem Affairs for the Palestinian Authority and later the Palestinian Ambassador to France.
We seek to keep you literally "updated" on movement in terms of truth and justice in the Middle East in general with a particular eye on Palestine. The links below will take you to various articles and websites that offer the perspective of leaders in the religious, NGO, and human rights communities. Additionally, Al-Bushra, ever vigilant, provides links to regular reporting as well as opinion pieces by journalists. The dates given here indicate when the link was posted; the most recent posting is at the top. Check the article itself for the date the information was released by the source.