Gaza is predominantly a Muslim community. There’s a Mosque on nearly every corner, a room to pray in almost every public and private building, and the call to prayer is heard several times during the day.
Honestly, I was going to write-off Christmas this year because I haven’t seen a church in my 3 months here.
One part of the holidays I do NOT miss is the consumer gluttony that turns normal Americans into crazy nuts at this time of year. I don’t miss the flurry of TV ads trying to lure people into stores. I don’t miss the Santa hoopla.
However, I DO miss making fudge and Christmas cookies and pumpkin bread for family and friends. I miss putting out the luminaries along the street and walking to Old Town to see the festivities there. I miss the smell of pinon burning and cheerful greetings. I miss my family!
On Christmas Eve, several Palestinian friends and Westerners living in Gaza came to my rescue, even offering to go to church with me.
The Holy Family Church near the Old Town in Gaza is beautiful. We arrived early and watched the church fill up; I estimate 200-250 parishioners attended. The service, of course, was in Arabic. Many of the Christmas songs were familiar.
The same cheerful greetings and festivities and families reminded me that Christmas is very special everywhere.
As I sat listening to the sermon (not understanding a word of it), I thought about the Christmas Truce 98 years ago when the British and German soldiers in the First World War laid down their weapons. They didn’t ask the generals or the politicians for permission, they just did it.
My wish for Christmas 2012 is that the Israeli soldiers and the Hamas fighters just put down their weapons and say . . . “enough is enough” . . . “we can find a better way to live on this tiny sliver of land where Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and all of the great peacemakers walked so many years ago.”