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Opinion | Christmas is Canceled the Land of Jesus' Birth

A Nativity scene in Bethlehem, West Bank, shows baby Jesus wrapped in a keffiyeh and placed in a pile of rubble to show solidarity with the people of Gaza. (Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

Rania Al Abdullah is the queen of Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Bethlehem usually comes alive at Christmas. Not this year. In the Holy Land, celebrations have been canceled: no parades, no bazaars, no public tree lightings. In my country, Jordan, where Jesus was baptized, our Christian community has chosen to do the same.

In the occupied West Bank, one Bethlehem church has adapted its Nativity scene, placing the infant Jesus among the rubble of a bombed-out building. It is a reflection of the story playing out on screens everywhere: the horrific images of the destruction of Gaza and, especially, its bloodied and broken children.

I watch a video of a Gazan father stroking his daughter’s face, telling someone to look at how beautiful she is. She could almost be sleeping, if not for her white shroud.

I scroll on and see a young boy struggling through rain and flooded roads, carrying the body of an even smaller child he refused to leave behind. A mother holding her daughter’s limp body close: “Put your heart on my heart,” she tells her, crying out as others try to take her away. She was not ready to let her go.

We need to see in these children’s faces the faces of our own. Each of these videos is a desperate plea to the world to recognize their humanity and their hurt.

The people of Gaza have not lost hope in others’ humanity — even as so many fail to see theirs.

Since Oct.7, the vast majority of casualties in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been civilians. Whether killed, kidnapped or unjustly detained, each person leaves an unfillable void. There is no difference between the pain Palestinian and Israeli mothers feel over the loss of a child.

Every day that goes by without a cease-fire, so much more is being tragically lost.

In just over two months, Israel has turned Gaza into a hellscape. Almost 20,000 dead. At least 8,000 are children — more than the death tolls of Pearl Harbor, the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina combined.

About 2 million of the 2.2 million people in Gaza have been displaced — almost an entire population turned to refugees. More than 50,000 Gazans have been wounded, but only eight hospitals out of 36 are operational.

On top of all this, hunger. Nearly half of the people in Gaza are starving. In more than two months, less than a week’s worth of the aid they need has been allowed in. How could starving a population be considered a legitimate form of self-defense?

International organizations are now calling Gaza a graveyard for children. How perverse that the Holy Land should be described as something so profoundly unholy.

This has become an unequivocal humanitarian nightmare. With each passing day, the threshold of what is acceptable falls to new lows, setting a terrifying precedent for this and other wars to come.

No matter what side you support, you can still demand a cease-fire, the release of hostages and detainees, and unrestricted access to aid.

Some will brush this off as a bleeding-heart plea, arguing that an immediate cease-fire is neither strategic nor sustainable. It is an indictment of the times that a call for a return to sanity could be dismissed as sentimentality. We also hear many talking about peace the day after as though to absolve themselves of the responsibility to act now.

A cease-fire is just the beginning. We must also embark on the difficult process of rehumanization — recognizing the humanity of others and acting on that universal kinship.


(c) 2023 The Washington Post


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