Monday, December 26, 2011

Shepherds and Settlements

Humble shepherds in the hills above Bethlehem play an important role in the Christmas story.  But ask one of the remaining Christian shepherds tending their flocks in modern-day Israel the line from the famous Christmas carol about what they see and the reply is likely to be not a star, but a settlement wall.

The BBC reports this holiday season, that the shepherds tending their flocks near Bethlehem are saying their age-old way of life could soon be coming to an end, thanks to the expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.  Israel has been expanding their massive housing developments - illegally built on Palestinian land, the BBC notes - in recent years.  But security walls surrounding the settlements have cut shepherds off from many of their prime grazing lands, while the settlements themselves draw massive amounts of water from already marginal reserves in the arid region, leaving little behind for the shepherd's flocks of sheep.  The result is that many of the current generation of shepherds are likely to be the last – their children don't want to go into an already difficult line of work, work now made nearly impossible thanks to the Israeli settlements.

Consider this – Israeli policies towards the West Bank and Gaza are staunchly supported by Conservative Christians in America, yet those very policies are now working to end a traditional way of life for a group of Christians that dates directly back to the time of Jesus.  As Homer Simpson once said: “think about the irony...”
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