Mr. Vice President:
As you celebrate Christmas with your family and listen to the gospel story of the birth of Jesus, I hope you will read and reflect on the following piece I wrote a few years back.
I want you to open your eyes to the situation facing Palestinian Christians and Muslims living in the Holy Land. And I want you to understand why the Arab Christian leadership in Palestine was so troubled by your blindness to their plight that they refused to meet with you.
Christmas: Then and Now
Two thousand years ago, Palestine was subject to a harsh occupation, much as it is today. In some ways, though, the conditions back then allowed the residents of occupied Palestine greater mobility than the current inhabitants of that land.
As we are told in the bible story, Joseph had to take his expectant wife from Nazareth, where they were living, to Bethlehem, their ancestral village, in order to fulfill a requirement imposed by the authorities to register as part of a nationwide census. Today, of course, all of that would be impossible.
In the first place no Palestinian originally from Bethlehem could ever have moved to Nazareth. The occupation and closure of the West Bank makes that sort of movement impossible. Furthermore, Israeli law prohibits an Arab from Nazareth from marrying a Bethlehemite and bringing their spouse across the Green Line to live with them in Israel.
Additionally, while thousands of Palestinians in Bethlehem, both Muslim and Christian, can see Jerusalem from their homes, they can not go to the Holy City to pray. And Arab Christians from Jerusalem, likewise, can not easily go the Christmas services in Bethlehem to pray alongside their co-religionists at the seasonal event.