Every year, Christmas and I have an understanding. I’ll smile and wish my Christian friends the merriest and happiest of holidays, and Christmas will smile in return and accept that despite the lovely lights and shining ornaments, I’ll sort of sit on the side.
Jesus and I have an understanding too. He’ll accept that whatever he is or became to others, to me he remains what he was during his lifetime – not more, not less. The simple fact is that he was born a Jew; he died a Jew and he was a Jew every day in between those days.
Whatever was done to him, whatever was done in his name in the centuries that followed, doesn’t change who he was, what he believed in. I believe like all humans, he had a mother and a father and no, I don’t believe his father was divine, omnipotent, all powerful. I don’t believe he was the son of God… well, anymore than my sons are sons of God, or my daughters, the daughters of God.
I believe Jesus was a man of deep thought, but only a man. I believe he lived in a time when his people were facing the hardest of times and I believe he wanted to spread the idea that peace and love was better than war and death – an incredibly Jewish concept.
And I think somewhere today, his neshama, his soul, remains Jewish. As I have often heard people say quietly, were he to miraculously find himself transported to this world, I have little doubt he would walk past the most magnificent of churches, to find the humblest of synagogues and there, as he likely did in his lifetime, he would pray to the same God I worship today.
Given what little I know of his life, I assume he would accept not only his Christian followers, but the Jewish people to which he once belonged. This ridiculous concept that only those who accept him as God get into heaven is not his idea and I don’t believe for a moment that he would accept it as truth.
And I believe he would condemn Muslim suicide bombers and all those who promote hate and death. Yes, he would condemn these actions, even if the Christian church often fails to do that.
And tonight, if what is being said happens, I think somewhere in the next world, Jesus will listen and be shocked and dismayed. He will be embarrassed and perhaps disgusted.
You see, I just read that the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal is going to be condemning Israel on Christmas night in Bethlehem. He won’t condemn the Arabs that took the Church of the Nativity hostage several years ago; the Arabs who urinated in the church and apparently sexually abused the priests and nuns they held for days. He won’t condemn Syria or Egypt or Iran or Hamas or Hezbollah.
I can deal with what the Archbishop will say because no matter in whose name he thinks he speaks, I’m going to believe that God knows the truth and the rest of us are smart enough not to listen. I can deal with it because honestly, who listens to him anyway? And as he considers himself a man of God, I can have sympathy that his most cherished audience will listen from Above and laugh at the absurdities that will flow from Twal’s mouth.
And while I don’t think that God takes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas any more seriously than he does the Archbishop, I have to admit that one of Abbas’ comments finally got to me. Abbas has decided, once again, to float the idea that Palestinians have a history that lasts more than a century or less. Despite conclusive archaeological proof that not a single Palestinian relic has been found dating back 200 years, never mind 2,000 years, Abbas has decided… wait for it… that Jesus was a Palestinian.
And my first thought was, “Jesus was… WHAT????” And somewhere from the heaven’s comes a faint voice saying, “I was… WHAT????”
The truth, as we all know, was that Islam didn’t exist at that time, nor did Palestine. Jesus lived and died as a Jew – not a Christian and certainly not as a Muslim. He had the honor, as I do today, of living in the Jewish land – then called Judea, today called Israel. Like millions of others, Jesus was murdered by those who hated us, who wanted to kill us.
No, Jesus was not a Palestinian… nor was anyone else for another 1,800 years after he lived. There were no Palestinians according to the current use of the term until, at most, 100 years ago. Before 1948, there were Palestinians – they were Jews and Arabs who lived in this land, ruled by the Turks, then the British. And then, as today, when the Arabs wanted to go to their holy of holy places… they turned their backs to Jerusalem and prayed to or went to Mecca.
Later tonight, as the Archbishop stands up in Bethlehem, among a dwindling Christian population that is often harassed by its Muslim neighbors and seeks refuge among its Jewish neighbors, Jesus may well watch from above, but he won’t wonder why in his name, the only people he ever knew, remain standing alone, as we have always been… as he was once… it will be because of the words of the Archbishop… which I doubt will be condemned in Rome tomorrow or in the days that follow.
And it will be because no one in Rome will stand against what Abbas just said either. But we know, they know, and Jesus knows the truth.
Jesus, a Palestinian? Not be a long shot. Not now, not then, not tonight and not in any of the tomorrows to come.