Sunday, December 10

MCC Palestine Update: Advent Greetings from the Holy Land! (2 of 4)

MCC Palestine Update: Advent Greetings from the Holy Land! (2 of 4)

10 December 2006

Dear Friends,

Greetings again from Bethlehem. We are sending out this email for a few reasons:

First, we wanted to pass along another Advent reflection sent by a group of international church workers living and working in Palestine/Israel. Attached is this letter in the form of a bulletin insert that you can feel free to use in your community.

Second, we wanted to remind you again of the Mennonite Church USA Advent advocacy campaign. Please visit for more information on this campaign. Also, visit for Advent reflections and other Christmas ideas from MCC.

Third, we are trying to clean up the email address book we use to send out the MCC Palestine Update. We also want to let you know that from Amman, Jordan, Ed Nyce (former MCC Palestine peace development worker in Bethlehem) is sending out updates about the situation in Iraq. To this end, we would ask you all to respond to this email by including:

1) your name and the current email address you would like the Palestine Update sent to.
2) if you are interested, your name and the current email address you would like the Iraq Update sent to.

Peace to you all,

Timothy Seidel

Christi and Timothy Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee - Palestine

Advent Greetings from the Holy Land!

Bethlehem, the city of Jesus’ birth, is surrounded by conflict, just as it was when Jesus was born. How will Bethlehem's Christians celebrate Christmas this year? What follows is one family’s story.

Today, there is a 30-foot wall surrounding Bethlehem and military checkpoints at its entrances. Ironically, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism has hung a giant banner on the wall next to the checkpoint through which dignitaries and tourists can enter Bethlehem, which reads, “Peace be with you.”

Yet there is little peace with the Anastas family, a Christian family now trapped behind this wall. Claire Anastas’ three-storey home is not only within Bethlehem’s giant concrete wall, but in addition, Israel has surrounded the house with extra 30-foot tall walls. The only view on all four sides from the home’s windows is this wall of concrete a few feet away. Once prosperous merchants, their home was on the main street of Bethlehem, a few hundred feet from Rachel’s Tomb, a site held holy by Jews, Muslims and Christians. In order to make pilgrimage to this site safe for Jews, Israel banned all other visitors and built an additional wall within Bethlehem, surrounding the route to the Tomb. Many houses lining Bethlehem’s main street were destroyed, but Claire’s was instead surrounded by its own walls topped by Israeli guard towers.

Two families—including nine children—now exist there, scraping together enough to live on, barely surviving. They have been forced to close their businesses and are now struggling with huge debts. They have no money to buy a new house somewhere else and have received no compensation from the Israeli Authorities. Daniel, age 8, recently asked “Mommy why are we living in a tomb?” Claire says her children have lost all hope. “They cry at night, ‘Mommy, can’t you do something?’ But there is nothing I can do. I can’t offer them anything and this has killed me.” Claire pleads for Christians around the world to notice them behind their tomb, and help remove the wall so that they can come back to life. “My family has been left behind,” Claire cries out, “They are burying us alive.”

Their family name anastas means “resurrected one.” Jesus came to our walled world to lead us out of the tomb of our deadness into new life. The words of the Apostle Paul to the Church at Ephesus underscore this:

For he is our peace, in his flesh he has made both groups into one and broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. (Ephesians 2:14)

Please pray that bridges of understanding between Palestinians and Israelis and Christians around the world be built so that peace can return to this Holy Land.

To learn more about this wall and the situation in Bethlehem, please visit Open Bethlehem at

Grace and Peace,

Ecumenical Advisory Group*

*This is the second in a series of four Advent reflections lifting up the voices of people living in the land of Jesus’ birth, sent from the Ecumenical Advisory Group—a group of international church workers living and working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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