Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Monday, December 22, 2008

O Come O Come Emmanuel

O Come O Come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appears.

As I sat in a church in Jerusalem listening the words of this beautiful Christmas song, I became immediately uncomfortable. Living in a place where immense injustice is perpetrated in the name of, and by, Israel, the hymns and Old Testament references with almighty and righteous Israel make me uneasy. I understand it's a gross misreading of Scripture to equate 'Israel' with the State of Israel, in fact, it's much more accurate to equate 'Israel' with the people of God. But nevertheless, the word Israel conjures up some negative feelings and emotions inside of me because of my experiences in Palestine/Israel. But, as the verses progressed and eventually came back to repeat the first verse, I was struck by the power, hope, and the significance of these words.

It's clear that "captive Israel" is a reference to the Roman occupation of the Israelites in 1st century Palestine. Palestine was probably full of Roman soldiers imposing curfews and checkpoints. I imagine this Roman occupation made the life of the people in Palestine very difficult, the Israelites wanted a way out.

The situation in Palestine today, 2000 years later is very similar. Palestine is still under military occupation, not Roman but Israeli. Land is confiscated, populations are segregated, curfews are imposed, walls are built, people are killed. The Israeli occupation has made the life of the people in Palestine very difficult, and Palestinians want a way out.

The words of this song ring true today, as they did 2000 years ago. The holy land of Palestine is still under occupation, but it's the Palestinians instead of the Israelites who are now held captive under occupation.

This Advent Season I pray that the captives of this occupation are ransomed, that the refugees who mourn in lonely exile will be allowed to return to their homes. I pray for the Son of God to appear, for the Kingdom of God to break through in its fullness.

Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace.