Easter Greetings from Jerusalem
Spring is the time for the land and the people to be reborn. While our winter has not delivered all the hoped for rains, yet it left behind enough nourishment for the landscape to bloom with a variety of wild flowers and green shrubbery. Looking from one’s windows the cocolicos are sprouting all over and the hills around Jerusalem are beautiful, or as we used to say when we were children, the hills are dressed with their best to welcome spring.
In our indigenous Christian traditions spring and Easter go together. They both designate rebirth and as the land reaffirms its colorful rejuvenation, Palestinian Christians reaffirm their inherited faith through the rites and rituals of Easter that insist on perseverance, renewal and continuity.
Celebration of Easter, however, is not an exclusively ethnocentric group exercise. In its ideal message it signifies that by our insistence on preservation, we want to continue to be part of our society and of the wider world around us and not to simply maintain our heritage and traditions. We may be little or small as a community remaining in the holy land but our presence, like the annual Easter celebrations, carries a strong message of love to the land, love to our people and hope in the future.
This Easter season, we do not see any breakthrough in the political process that seeks to end the conflict in our wounded land. Our people remains under occupation and sporadic martial and violent events remind us that we all live in uncertainty. We are moving towards a Palestinian State to be declared in September. Many states and international bodies are already giving high marks for the preparations for Statehood. Our people, particularly its youth, are demanding an end to the division that separates Gaza from the West Bank. In Jerusalem, a group of youth, cognizant of the particular challenges facing their city, the city of Easter and of the Sacrifice of Ishmael and Isaac, are intent on maintaining the beauty of the city, the values it inspires and the rights of its Palestinian citizens. In the region, young men and women are rising up to demand basic rights and for governments that respect the citizen and that can offer human security. These are exciting times but also very painful for those who pay the ultimate price and for their families and for those who remain behind bars or are exposed to bodily and psychological pressures to make them desist from going on with their protests and demands.
Easter reminds us that in spite of everything hope must triumph and prevail. Palestinian Christians, in spite of dwindling numbers in the land of their birth, remain resolute that by their Easter celebrations they identify with the challenges and tribulations of our people and land. Likewise, we identify with the transformations generated by the “Arab Spring”. As we go through Holy Week we pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the entire land; we hope for stronger ties with our compatriots who have emigrated and we pray that the celebrations of Easter would send a message of our common bonds with those amongst whom we live and share the sweet and sour of life.
*Dr. Sabella is the Exectutive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches’ Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees.