The Christmas package from Aboud arrived and in it are letters from all the classes. Aboud is an isolated Christian village north of Jerusalem. They are in a “Beacons of Hope” program that pairs the children of Aboud with the children of St. Mary’s of Piscataway, the Church of the Nativity in Washington D.C., and St. Michael’s of Silver Spring

The Christmas package from Aboud arrived and in it are letters from all the classes.

Aboud is an isolated Christian village north of Jerusalem. They are in a “Beacons of Hope” program that pairs the children of Aboud with the children of St. Mary’s of Piscataway, the Church of the Nativity in Washington D.C., and St. Michael’s of Silver Spring. The younger classes are filled with drawings normal to American children, and with a few English words such as “love” and “peace”. The 7th and 8th grades send letters, and in them you can see a pattern. The children identify themselves, send expressions of Christian love, and tell of their plight. First, is a scan of the letter from Samar, a girl from last year’s 8th grade. She is someone who stands out; someone who is very motivated by the possibilities of a partnership between our two peoples. Notice how she uses Christian language to bridge the distance between us. She adds drawings of flowers from a child of the “City of Flowers” which is what the village of Aboud is known as.

A picture of a Peace Cross adorns several letters that sends the message “Jesus loves you very much.” That is a message that goes both ways. A peace dove is also shown in other letters. It is crying because it has nowhere to go. In one letter, there is a peace laurel, hands outstretched in friendship, and a box labeled “bomb” crossed out. This is this student’s way to show that he is against terrorism.

You can see that these children live under hard conditions that invade their daily perceptions of the world. Yet other children show signs of an ever more severe invasion. Three pictures show children standing against tanks. One child shows a tank firing upon his village, stating “Always… always we are bored”. The children are not allowed to venture out doors for fear of them not returning. The parents have replaced stories about the big bad wolf with the bad tanks. It is notable that this child sees the humanity in the tank operator, rather than seeing the tank as a monstrous creation of an invading nation. Another child shows the tank firing at a boy throwing stones in defiance. This boy knows he will probably die for this as evidenced by the coffin in the sky (his dreams?) with a peace dove flying overhead. Yet the boy stands in his dreams defiant. Finally, one last child appears to be holding a cross against two tanks. This is his symbol of the ultimate sacrifice to peace on earth. Perhaps this child understands the meaning of Christmas in its fruition on Calvary.

The Christmas cards have arrived from the children sponsored in the Child Sponsorship Program for Christian Education Support in the Holy Land. Again there is a wide variety of expression from the children from all of the villages and towns in the Holy Land. However, there are poignant letters from the village of Beit Jala, situated on the front lines in the clash between the Israeli and Palestinians. Much hardship is endured there, and is shown in the cards from the children: a few being repeated below. Listen quietly with your heart, and you might hear the quiet sound of childhood being stolen. Ameer says it very succinctly: “I have God with me all the time.”

Dear Sir,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I hope that you’ll enjoy the Christmas with your family.

In this year Bethlehem won’t live the spirit of Christmas. It’ll be different this year. It’ll be a black one, full of sadness on our people’s souls.

Hope you all the joyfulness and happiness.
Katie Hodaly

I’m Hany Saad, 16 years old from Beit Jala. I am so happy to hear about you, and to write to you to tell you about the situation here in the Holy Land. We are facing a very hard life here because of the occupation of our land. But the last year, when the Intifada began, the situation got worse and worse. Everyday innocent people are killed or arrested, and treated like animals because they tried to protect their land. This Christmas is the worst: no one can celebrate, and lots of people have no food or place to live.

However, I hope that this Christmas will bring peace to the Holy Land, and I’m sending you my greetings hoping that we will meet.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year.
Hany Abu Sa’ad

I’m Khader Abu Saad, 12 years old. I live in Beit Jala near Bethlehem. I’m a student in 6th grade. I hope there will be peace in my country. There is a lot of killed in Bethlehem, Beit Jala and in all Palestine. We can’t leave Beit Jala because we haven’t another place to go. Christians will never leave Bethlehem because it’s a Holy Land, and we appreciate it.

So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Khader Abu Sa’ad

We live in a difficult situation here. My father doesn’t go to work. Everyone here can’t work. No tourists in Bethlehem. We pray every Sunday in the church for Our Lord to make our life safe and better.

Hope you have a good Christmas.
Hiba Abed Rabbo

I’m so glad that I could contact with someone from another country. I’m sure that you heard and still hearing about the difficult situation that we live, especially in Beit Jala, my city. But the best thing is Christmas.

So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Take care. Yours with love,
Loren Abu Sa’ad Rabbo

Christmas is coming with it’s beautiful night and faithful celebrations. But I don’t know if we can do celebrations in Palestine because of the situation. Maybe our family can’t celebrate Christmas and New Year because of my Grandmother’s death. We are in sorrow. I wish you to be among your family this Christmas. Sincerely,
Joseph Hodali Rabbo

I live in Bethlehem. It’s a holy place and it’s a great place. But now it’s not so good because there are gun shots and killed people. Our life is not good because there is no work. I hope in the new year the war will finish, and in that year I will finish my school!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Martin Handal Rabbo

My father doesn’t work. Several times there are shootings and we have to rush to Bethlehem to seek refuge. It is hard for us that we cannot play and live.

Love in Christ Jesus.
John Matar Rabbo

Hi. I’m Ameer.

I want to thank you for choosing me. I live in Beit Jala. I have two brothers and one sister. I have a beautiful mother and a hard working father. We are living day to day in all matters. We are alive today but nobody knows what happens tomorrow. Houses are being shelled every day. I can’t study. I can’t play. I can’t have candy. I am so afraid to sleep at night, but I have God with me all the time. He will never give up on me, and you choosing me is proof. Thank you.

I wish you a Happy New Year and a Merry Christmas.
Ameer Abed Rabbo Rabbo
Beit Jala, Christmas 2001