JEWISH ACTIVISTS MARK BETHLEHEM’S PLIGHT WITH ALTERNATIVE NINE LESSONS AND CAROLS
Jews, Christians, Muslims and others have joined forces to highlight the tragedy of modern day Bethlehem with an evening of poetry, prose and song at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, in central London on November 26.
The “Bethlehem Now” event has sparked controversy by putting traditional Christmas songs to novel use. The alternative lyrics talk of Israel’s attempts to sustain its 41-year occupation of Palestinian land with ghetto walls, tanks and bullets, bulldozed homes and uprooted olive trees.
“Once in royal David’s city / Stood a big apartheid wall,” goes one refrain.
Daily Telegraph leader writer Damian Thompson, blogging on the newspaper’s website last week, called on the Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, to halt the event, saying its use of carols to make a political point was “indefensible.”
The vice-president of Catholic peace organisation Pax Christi, Bruce Kent, who will be among the readers at St James’s next Wednesday, said of the call for a ban: “I’m afraid this is just another example of Israel’s supporters trying to prevent free speech.”
Others taking part will include Dr Ang Swee Chai, author and orthopaedic surgeon, who will read an account of her experiences during the 1982 massacres of Palestinian refugees in the Lebanese camps of Sabra and Shatila.
Readings will reflect the seldom heard Palestinian experience over the past 90 years, concluding with a contribution from Eliza Ernshire of the Free Gaza campaign, which recently made news by sailing two small boats carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade.
“Bethlehem Now” organiser Deborah Fink, of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, said Christmas is an apt time to raise awareness as to the current reality in the Holy Land.
“At a time of year when much of the world is focusing on Bethlehem, very few people are aware that the ‘Little Town’ is now surrounded by a 10-metre-high wall, with the people imprisoned inside and their economy destroyed,” said Fink, a professional soprano who will lead the singing at the Wren church of St James’s.
“ I don’t expect this event to have a particular appeal to practising Jews, but most of us have sung Christmas carols. It is a wake up call to Christians who sometimes fear speaking out about their holy city for fear of accusations of anti-semitism. It is re-assuring for them that Jewish organisations are involved in this.’
“Whatever our faith or background, we should be calling on our leaders to ensure justice for Palestine, without which there will never be real peace for both peoples “ she said.
“BethlehemNow – Nine Alternative Lessons and Carols for Palestine”
7.30 p.m. Wednesday 26 November
St James’s Church, Piccadilly, LondonW1J 9LL
Tickets cost £10 (£6 concessions on the door)
Booking via TicketWeb www.ticketweb.co.uk 08444771000