Guest Blogger: Sahar, a Mormon Palestinian
|Please welcome Sahar to United Brethren. She is going to offer a series of guest posts on her life as a Mormon Palestinian. Sahar grew up near Bethlehem, joined the Church as a student at BYU, and is currently studying in Turkey. I have written about Sahar before at Meridian magazine.|
Living in Bethlehem
The gospel has changed my life so much that I changed from someone who hated living in Bethlehem to someone who felt grateful to be there. Before I joined the Church I often wondered why I had to live in such a troubled place full of persecution, hardship, killing, and turmoil. Even though I lived a few blocks away from the place where Christ was born I did not visit the Church of the Nativity until I was 14 years old. Even then, it was just a place to me and nothing more. I grew up a Christian but did not really understand the importance of what had happened in my little town of Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
The Palestinians in Bethlehem (and in all Palestinian cities) live very hard lives. The town of Bethlehem with its surrounding villages has a population of about 100,000 people. Most of the people in the area used to work in tourism (selling their hand-made olive wood or other products to tourists or as tour guides). You can imagine now how many people there have no jobs (about 80%)! Most of the time the Israeli soldiers make it impossible for the Palestinians to leave Bethlehem. There are checkpoints that surround the city and soon the separation wall will be completed and thus no exits will remain. Palestinians either try to convince the Israeli soldiers to let them go though the checkpoint (which they are usually not successful at), or they try to sneak out by climbing hills, taking long detours, or driving on dirt roads. The second method is dangerous as they are sometimes shot at if discovered. Why do they want to get out? To go to their jobs in Ramallah, Hebron and other neighboring cities.
After I joined the LDS church in America and returned back to Palestine everything had a new meaning for me. I came to love my town (or as we Palestinian call it “our big jail”). Every tree and every street reminded me of my Savior. From my house I could see the Church of the Nativity where He was born. When I went to that place, I could sense that this is where my Savior was born.
I now feel blessed to have the opportunity to live in Bethlehem. Despite all the turmoil, injustice, arrests, killings, and beatings I see every day, the Church of the Nativity stands there to remind me that the Prince of Peace was born here, that no matter what He is in charge, that he loved these people so much that he choose this town (my town) to be born in. I used to wonder why he was born in such a troubled place, but where else would the Prince of Peace choose to be born? He did it to show us that true peace does not come from two sides sitting at a negotiation table. True peace comes from Him (ONLY from and through Him). How lucky I am to have that peace!