On behalf of the church, Thom Davies participated in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. Listen to this reflection on Thom’s experience.
I’ve sung “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.” But I’ve been in Bethlehem, and it is not quiet or peaceful. Rather, Bethlehem is still a place of military occupation. Checkpoint 300 is a heavily armed gate in the separation wall between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Tragically, Israeli soldiers and others there proclaim the same message as the innkeeper—“no room.”
With the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme, I provided a protective presence for vulnerable people, monitored and reported human rights abuses, and supported Palestinians and Israelis working for peace. The week before I was in Bethlehem, my colleagues and I sat in the Asiral al-Qibliya village with a victim of settler violence. In a living room strewn with glass, he said, “My children know that they stole my land; now my children know they can invade my home. My main concern is my children. How will they be after 20 years of these attacks?”
Bethlehem was occupied by the Romans at Jesus’ birth. Now Bethlehem is controlled by another occupying country: Israel. Born in Bethlehem today, Jesus would be Palestinian. He would not be able go to Jerusalem without a permit, and he would have to line up for 90–120 minutes each morning at Checkpoint 300 with 2,800 others. Life under occupation is always difficult.
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