Tree Lighting & True Light
By the Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, President
Dar al-Kalima University College and the Diyar Consortium
Dear sisters and brothers, dear friends,
Christmas Greetings from the little town of Bethlehem. As we approach Christmas, there is an influx of Christmas Tree light sweeping through Palestine. These events are now celebrated in each town, village and University. While these events are joyful, I’m asking myself if people are so absorbed by tree lighting ceremonies because the true light is becoming a commodity that is hard to find.
It feels like people can no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is blocked by the 22 Jewish settlements that surround Bethlehem being declared legal; by an international community that pays only lip service to the human rights of our people; by a rise of both populist movements and Christian Zionism; and by the Israeli electricity company cutting the electricity in Bethlehem this week so it literally became dark, a situation that people in Gaza have long-since been forced to become accustomed to. There is no light on the political horizon, and many are not led by bright stars anymore but by racist ideologies. Where can we find the bright star to lead us? Where can we find any good news today? Where can we find hope? In the middle of this Advent season, as we head toward Christmas, we need to once more follow the star that leads us to the child.
It is there that we find the true light, the true hope. I’m asked all the time what keeps us going in times like these, and the answer is simple. It’s the young people that we serve who keep us going; in them we see the light, the potential, and the hope for the future. It’s in people like our graduate and now colleague, Wissam al-Jafari, who this week is presenting his film in Hollywood at the New Filmmakers festivals. It’s in the young people in Gaza we started serving this month by providing them with art education to bring the best out in them, defying the darkness that overshadows their lives. So in the middle of this dark age, we concentrate on the true light that became flesh in Bethlehem and that continues to shine today in the eyes of young people we serve. They are our bright stars that shine in the darkness and the darkness will not be able to overcome.
From the little town of Bethlehem and in the name of all the bright stars we serve, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a new year full of light, hope & joy.