QUARANTINE - DAY 36 - 10th April 2020
This weekend, beginning Friday 10th April, is the culmination of 40 days of Lent. The number 40 is a very significant number in all monotheistic religions. The etymology of the word “quarantine” is from the Italian "forty days". Today is Good Friday - a day of fasting for Christians across the world, with Orthodox Easter next weekend. The significance of quarantine in Bethlehem, the heart of the Holy Land - surely can't be lost to anyone. Fasting is underway in the Jewish faith and Ramadan fasting starts in a couple of weeks’ time for Muslims. We are in a time when people's thoughts are preoccupied with food shortages, difficulties in leaving home to shop and whether they can afford food - many across the globe are now dependent on food aid. During this period of coronavirus, when all major monotheistic religions are fasting, people will surely be reflecting on those who aren't able to access food.
Hind Khoury, Palestine's Ambassador in France, shares her thoughts at Easter time:
The Corona Pandemic and the Palestinian Struggle for Hope
The world is shocked by the Corona pandemic, finding it extremely hard to be imprisoned at home with limitation to movement and seeing family and friends, kept away from businesses and fortunes or consumption and entertainment, denied the right to go to places of worship, and bothered by anxiety, fear, isolation and loneliness. This was not really the case for Palestinians, starting in Bethlehem where the first corona victims were identified. Though still living under military occupation, Palestinians have rather taken the shock calmly, adapting fast to its dictate, and proving capable of self-discipline and solidarity to overcome hardships.
Actually most of this new reality is déjà vu for us. The occupation authorities have throughout the years expelled people from their homes, imposed curfews, attacked people with weapons and tear gas, demolished homes, detained people including children for political reasons and very often in the middle of the night, denied freedom of movement with military checkpoints in our midst, build walls to separate us, expropriated our land and water, imposed sieges and denied us access to Holy Places. We, from one generation to the next, live injustice, fear, humiliation, isolation, insecurity and uncertainty every day of our lives.
Palestinians persisted in the face of so much dispossession and oppression in what we call resilience or ‘Sumud’, a strategy of survival at the base of which is hope in a more just and free world, a promise made through the prophets and the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ right here in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
I have a confession to make. I feel I have failed my Faith in the last few years and lost hope and belief in our humanity, as have many others. It was not easy to witness so much death, destruction, suffering, injustice, meaningless wars and the savagery of terrorism in the Middle East, the cradle of civilization. It brought to bear the destruction of Palestine since 1948 and the continuing plight of the millions of refugees still lingering in exile waiting to return to their homes. ‘The deal of the Century’, presented towards the end of 2019, a so-called peace plan of U.S. President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister, Natanyahu, to further legitimize the destruction of Palestine and its people was the last blow that proved yet again that in our world today only ‘might is right’, destroying the human values we grew up to believe in and confirming a longstanding hypocrisy of the rule of law and human rights discourse that we were fed with ad nauseum for decades by western powers.
The Corona pandemic came uninvited, out of the blue.
To me it is a wake-up call to the ongoing world order (or disorder) of power, greed, profits, materialism and control of technology; brushing aside any concern of human life and values. It seems to me the divine has intervened to put a stop to a world gone mad - bringing us back to a New World Order, where life and health matters most; where nature is king and power; money and science are not the source of supreme power in this world. People now have the time to ponder and think over these matters of life and death, love and hate, the true meaning of religion, and the extent of power and greed. We all know we shall wake up from this pandemic to a different world order, turned on its head.
This year, as Easter approaches, the older woman I am renewed her hope in a better humanity and perhaps Martin Luther Junior said it well: ‘the moral arch of moral history is long, but it bends towards justice’.
Photo courtesy of Mohamed Abu Haniyeh