Merry Christmas: Jesus’s Birthplace is an ‘Open-Air Prison’

The Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI), a collaboration of the East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA of Palestine, has released its special “Christmas Message.” And this year’s holiday season is apparently all about bashing Israel.  “The birthplace of Jesus Christ has become an open-air prison,” they complained with Christmas cheer.

JAI is chiefly about disseminating anti-Israel advocacy through Christian and relief groups worldwide to “influence decision-makers and prompt actions that contribute to end Israeli occupation and all its violations of International Law.”  JAI was founded in 1982 after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, in response to terror attacks from there by Palestinian groups.   As a Christian group, JAI might laudably advocate spiritual reconciliation.  But its chief ministry seems to be demonizing Israel without acknowledging ongoing terror by groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

This year’s “Christmas Message” from JAI amply illustrates its political and spiritual emphases.  There is no mention of opposing terror or working for peace, just opposing Israel.  Recalling the Nativity of Christ, JAI grimly notes that the fields where Shepherds first heard of Baby Jesus are now witness to “harassment, imprisonment, and land confiscation,” making hope difficult.

JAI denounces Israel’s “campaign of aggression towards our people in Gaza” without mentioning years of rockets launched by many of “our people” in Gaza at the behest of Hamas.  The holiday message complains of “extremists,” but only when describing Israeli settlements around Bethlehem.  “Not dissimilar to Herod’s campaign to find and kill the baby Jesus, Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza is a campaign to kill the hope and livelihood of steadfast Palestinians who desire to be free in their homeland,” JAI carefully explains, unavoidably comparing Israel to King Herod, infamous for infanticide.

In their concluding fundraising appeal, JAI implores supporters to “act against all the injustices we live under so we may be liberated from oppression and live in peace with justice.” But how or why would Palestinians be free from “oppression” or live in “peace” if Hamas or kindred spirits are rulers is unexplained.  Evidently “oppression” only applies to Israeli policies in a region that is full of pervasive oppression by Arab regimes.

This spirit of chiefly blaming Israel of course is not confined to Palestinian groups.  The impact of the October letter to the U.S. Congress from mostly old-line Protestant church officials urging reconsideration of U.S. military aid to Israel continues to ricochet.   Seven prominent Jewish groups cancelled a long-scheduled interfaith dialogue with these denominations in response, fed up with years of anti-Israel scapegoating.   After about a month, the denominational officials finally have replied to the Jewish groups, ignoring the substance of their distress, while offering to meet for a special summit to discuss their concerns.  The Jewish groups, likely exasperated, have not yet responded.  Since the exchange began, U.S. military aid to Israel has proved vital to facilitating Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile protection against attacking Hamas rockets.  Seemingly the United Methodist, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America officials who endorsed the original appeal, if they actually mean what they say, would be fine with Israel unable to defend its cities from terror attacks.

Meanwhile, in early November, B’nai B’rith International helped convene a summit outside Jerusalem of pro-Israel Protestant activists from the U.S., Canada, and Europe to combat the unrelenting anti-Israel bias within old-line Protestantism.  “The humanitarian concern is the veil that covers, or is the rationalization for ultimately what I believe to be anti-Semitic ideas and anti-Semitic policies,” said one United Church of Canada minister, as quoted in The Times of Israel. A British pastor added:  “That Goliath cannot be felled with a stone and a sling as in the days of King David, because the problem isn’t political, the problem isn’t sociological; the problem isn’t about lack of education or lack of dialogue.”  He concluded:  “The problem is a spiritual one. The problem is that there is an adversary of God, of Israel, of Christians.”

The summit in Jerusalem was not only about complaints.  The Protestant activists are releasing their own manifesto that’s a lot more cheerful than the JAI’s ostensible “Christmas Message.”  Not yet finalized, it will affirm “love for Israel” and commend Israel’s pluralistic democracy that is so unique in the region.  It also affirms love for Palestinians and hopes for peaceful co-existence. These Protestants chide churches who insist that helping Palestinians requires undermining Israel.  And they declare that encouraging forces who want to destroy Israel does not exemplify Christian love.  Unlike most church critics of Israel, they connect hostility to Israel to oppression of Christians and other religious minorities throughout the region.

God bless these Protestant activists who resist the bureaucracies of their own declining denominations by asserting mostly simple self-evident truths about the Middle East.  JAE’s exploitation of Christmas to delegitimize the nation that produced Baby Jesus surely is a gross spiritual contradiction.   The Canadian pastor at the Jerusalem consultation emphasized that church bureaucrats don’t speak for most church goers.  He could have added that especially at this time of year, even as Hamas rockets still target Israel, most Christians in America and many globally still deeply sympathize with an embattled friend.

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  • rachaelamb

    King Herod was an Arab,and it is the Arabs who are really guilty of infanticide. A few tragic examples,baby Hadas Fogel who was stabbed to death in her crib by Palestinian terrorists who later on bragged about what they did and said they were proud of murdering her and her family,or Shalhevet Pass a Jewish baby who was targetted by a sniper and shot to death in her baby carriage,or Merav Hatuel who was shot in the head at point blank range in her babyseat along with her pregnant mom and 4 sisters. The Palestinians also kill their own babies by turning their neighborhoods into war zones, and using them as human shields, and firing rockets next to their homes into Israel hoping to kill Israeli children. The Arabs have also murdered and tortured thousands of Arab babies and children in Syria,and tens of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan,in suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks over the last decade and these phony hateful people who call themselves Christians could care less because Jews aren't involved.

    • Mary Sue

      Oh he was, was he? I wasn't sure what he was, all I know is he wasn't Jewish and I don't think he was Roman either.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "King Herod was an Arab,and it is the Arabs who are really guilty of infanticide."

      Right. If you're going to do collectivism, blame the right group at least.

      "The Palestinians also kill their own babies by turning their neighborhoods into war zones, and using them as human shields, and firing rockets next to their homes into Israel hoping to kill Israeli children. The Arabs have also murdered and tortured thousands of Arab babies and children in Syria,and tens of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan,in suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks over the last decade and these phony hateful people who call themselves Christians could care less because Jews aren't involved."

      Sad but true.

  • Nehama

    Jesus was a Jew, any Christian who supports anti-Israel/anti-Jewish ideas denies their own God. End of story.

    • intrcptr2

      AMEN, and AMEN!!!

      Baruch hu haba b'shem adonai.

  • Western Spirit

    Yes, Jesus was a Jew no matter who or how many deny this fact. the shroud of Turin, the shroud that covered Jesus’ body exhibiting marks that coincide with what is recorded happened to him is forever plainly showing what the Jew Jesus looked like. A Jew. Hitler’s minions would have fed him to the God of hate along with the rest of his tribe.

    And what else should Jesus look like, but a Jew? Certainly not like the blue eyed northern European familiar depiction of Him.

    The shroud of Turin is like a negative imprint impacting the cloth from the power that surged through Jesus in the resurrection.

    Otherwise I don’t know what it could be. It’s been examined, tested, and treated to endless speculation, but to no avail. Usually, as a protestant, I’m skeptical of the Catholic Church’s claims but not this one, this one is credible even to a protestant like me because otherwise, without the resurrection, it is inexplicable to explain the image of a Jew imprinted like a negative on a cloth the way this one is.

    • Mary Sue

      the only problem I have with the shroud is it's not how the Jews traditionally buried their dead back then. They used strips of cloth, not a whole sheet. The account of His burial also mentions strips of cloth, as per the tradition.

      That said, the Shroud itself is rather interesting, though its provenance may be difficult to determine.

      • Willy Rho

        The way I heard some Shroud experts explain the Cloth was torn along the edges to make strips to bind the cloth onto the body. The shroud had that done I heard. Then the strips were sewn back onto the Shroud along the edges where they had come from before they were removed to make bindings. I am just repeating what I heard in one of the "Shroud" History Shows. I am only a common Christian so I don't know any Jewish Traditions or other ways of Jewish burial.

        • intrcptr2

          There are numerous problems with the shroud.
          1. Its existence was utterly unknown before the early Rennaisance.
          1b The Bible mentions nothing of the burial clothes after his resurrection. Is it to be expected that the disciples would have cared one bit about rotten linen sheets once they had seen and touched the risen Lord? Joseph's family most likely burned them.
          2. The imprint does not look Jewish.
          2b As per Jewish practice, and Paul's commands, it is most probable that Jesus kept his hair close cropped. The long hair Jesus is a late borrowing from pagan myth. The image in the shroud resembles Dionysius more than Yeshua l'Nazariou
          3. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests that the power of God would affect physical matter in this way.
          3b Jesus told Thomas that those who believed without seeing were more blessed. How does this fit with Jesus' knowledge of the shroud?
          4. Paul argued that even Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. Is the ONLY possible source for this God? I think not.
          4b Jesus told us that the last days are shortened for the sake of protecting the elect from satan deception; the false christ of Revelation is a phenomenal miracle worker; and it is a perverse generation which requires a sign.
          5. The ink has been carbon dated to the 1300s.
          5b And now this; http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/12/0

          As a fellow non-Catholic, I would suggest to sticking with Jesus and ignoring pretty much anything else that comes from Rome.

      • objectivefactsmatter

        "the only problem I have with the shroud is it's not how the Jews traditionally buried their dead back then. They used strips of cloth, not a whole sheet. The account of His burial also mentions strips of cloth, as per the tradition."

        Jesus was of course a Jew, but did not follow their all of their "traditions" necessarily.

        • Mary Sue

          Well it did say right in teh text that the women winded strips of cloth all over his body when they buried him. But your larger point is valid.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            "Well it did say right in teh text that the women winded strips of cloth all over his body when they buried him. "

            Ah, I missed that. Did they mention that for any History Channel coverage that you know of? I guess there could have been strips and then the cloth as well.

          • Mary Sue

            It wasn't the history channel that I saw, it was something else. I forget exactly what though. It's been repeated in various places including answers in genesis.

          • Armando

            The imprint on the shroud cannot be that of a jewish man because of its position. According to ancient Mishnaic sources, traditionally a jewish person was laid to rest in a slightly fetal position with his right hand over his heart and his left hand placed over the right hand. So whoever that imprint represents its doubtful its that of a jewish person.

        • intrcptr2

          Jesus followed NO traditions when he was dead. As MarySue refers to, those who prepared his body for burial most likely would have followed typical burial practices, which were indeed not specified in Torah.

  • Willy Rho

    One of the Christian Gospels says that a cloth, maybe a "face cloth", was folded up and placed near the burial slab. Someone, a Jewish person, said that meant that the person leaving it would return, sort of like there was a meal and a person left their napkin folded to indicate that they were coming back.

  • objectivefactsmatter

    “harassment, imprisonment, and land confiscation”

    What BS. Occupy San Francisco members about their lives there, make the same claim with just as much validity. "They put a fence around People's Park (across the bay in Berkeley), the pigs are confiscating more of our land!"

    • ontogram

      NO BS. Zionism has the intent of removing Palestinians from all of Palestine and these are the techniques used to do so. This should be obvious to anyone who bothered with a map. Besides these methods, Israel employs the assault of a modern army on mostly civilians again and again. Even the mainstream media which supports Zionism would characterize "harassment, imprisonment and land confiscation" in this instance as BS. And people who read real news know only too well the lies of the Zionist state.

      • ontogram

        would NOT characterize

  • Mary Sue

    If they don't like THAT "open air prison" there's plenty of REAL ones they can go to. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon…

    • Looking4Sanity

      Indeed. Isn't the definition of a prison "a place of confinement that you are not free to leave as you wish"? I don't see anyone forcing these Arabs to stay in Gaza. Let them go back where they came from.

  • Lorraine

    It seems like a sad way to celebrate Christmas, by using Jesus’s birth place as a political tool. Jesus was Jewish, as were his disciples. Jesus loved the Jewish people, that were his people. As a Christian, I believe He still does love the Jewish people, as well as the other people of the world. According to the promises of God in the Bible, God still has a special covenant with the Jewish people. They are God’s chosen people. God will not and has not broken His covenant. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

    The Muslim Palestinains have persecuted Christians right where they live. Consider that area was at one time a majority Christian area and now has a very small minority, The same thing that has happened in Lebanon. The Christian left in the Middle East are having are very hard time, not because of the Jews, but the Muslims.

    • ontogram

      Israel persecutes Christian Palestinians relentlessly.

  • Long Ben

    I think Mr. Norquists' thoughts on Israel have been affected by affection for his arab wife . However Mr Chambliss needs to remember , that everytime ( since the Reagan presidency ) the Dems. have promised spending cuts in exchange for tax increases, the taxes increased but the Dems reneged on the spending cuts without fail . To make things worse the Bernanke is trashing the Dollar . At the founding of our Republic the Death penalty was prescribed for anyone who would debase the currency and rightfully so as that rascal is stealing the food out of the mouth of everyones honest labor . So , why does the Bernanke yet remain in the land of the living ?

  • κατεργάζομαι

    Q.: ~ Why December 25, since it's unlikely that Jesus was born at this time of year?

    Praise Jesus that I am saved by FAITH in His finished work on the CROSS! I don't celebrate shrines!

    This is a unique time of year for presenting the gospel to the world, so let us take advantage of the opportunity.

    Christ's birth and the details of His life, death, and resurrection were foretold centuries before by the Hebrew prophets.

    No such prophecies preceded the birth of Buddha,
    No such prophecies preceded the birth Confucius,
    No such prophecies preceded the birth Muhammad, et al.

    Biblical prophecy fulfilled is the most powerful persuader we have. Paul used it in converting the lost and turned the world of his day upside down. So should we.

    .

    • JacksonPearson

      Amen….
      Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”

    • David A.

      κατεργάζομαι , December 25th is the date the Roman Catholic Church choose to hold Christ's Mass (Christ-mas) – it has nothing to do with what day he was born!

      Whenever the RCC canonizes someone (NOTE: I am not Catholic, so this may be imprecise) they choose a day (somewhat) associated with that person that is dedicated to saying masses for them. Sometimes it is the day they died, sometimes the day they were born, sometimes it is a day something special happened in their life.

      I'm not sure how/when people started thinking Jesus the Christ was born on 25 December 0000 AD. It is becoming more and more evident he was born ~?? May 0004 BC.

  • Asher

    Herod, was from the Idumean family, or Edomites, which governed Palestine for the Roman Empire in 37 B.C. This is the Hellenistic Greek name for the territory south of Judea then inhabited by the Edomites who had been displaced from their territory by the Nabateans. The origins of Idumea as a country began with the migration of the Edomites after most of the Jews had been deported to Babylon leaving Judah unoccupied. Herod the Great second son of Antipater II, who named him governor of Galilee at the age of 25. This Herod viewed the birth of Jesus as a real threat to his own power. In most wars, Israel has not been the aggressor, but the defender of their land.

  • WMJ

    This is seriously stupid. Have you ever been to Bethlehem? It is absolutely an open-air prison. But hey–why ask tough question when you can revert to intellectual laziness and oversimplify the issues? Disgusting crap like this is just as damaging to the peace process as Hamas rockets.