Marthame Sanders

Living into Hope: Christmas in Zababdeh, Palestine

“As we write this to you, we are still in Advent, a period of waiting and hoping and preparing, a time of expectation.” Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders write from Zababdeh, Palestine. Christmas in the Holy Land has a special meaning, but under military occupation it also means stocking up for curfew, anticipating loss, fearing for the worst. Despite the exhaustion, the fear, the uncertainty, the word from Zababdeh is Hope. And from this hope springs faith anew, reborn this Christmas season. 

Holy fire

“The Easter tradition among the churches of Palestine and Israel is unique. On Holy Saturday, the day before Orthodox Easter, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem enters the tomb of the Holy Sepulchre. After a moment of prayer, he emerges with the Holy Fire, passing it on by candle to the gathered faithful. From there, with shouts of Christos Anesti! (‘Christ is risen!’), it is spread to the churches of this land, a symbol of the miracle of resurrection spread throughout the world. In past years, someone would go down from Zababdeh to Jerusalem to bring the light back. It has been three years since that has happened because of travel restrictions on Palestinians in the occupied territories.” Elizabeth and Marthame Sanders, Americans living in a Christian Palestinian village in the West Bank, describe the twists and turns of an amazing journey under occupation. 

Cross the Line

For the past six months, people in the Jenin district have been struggling under curfews and closures with varying degrees of strictness. Today, like yesterday and the day before, was one of the stricter days. Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders report from nearby Zababdeh. 

A typical Sunday morning in Jenin

It was a restless night for us, the hours perforated by bursts of gunfire, the heavy grinding of tanks, and Hebrew-accented Arabic barked from military loudspeakers. We had finally drifted off when the blast literally shook us out of bed. Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders write from Zababdeh.