Christmas in Gaza?
by Us (formerly USPG)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore how Christmas is very different in areas that have experienced conflict.
Preparation and materials
- Find information about the destruction shortly before the ceasefire from the BBC at: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-28850510 and about the situation in Gaza shortly after the ceasefire from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at: www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_sitrep_04_09_2014.pdf
- The BBC news website and Al Jazeera both have several articles and short videos expanding on various elements of the conflict at: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14630174 and www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast
- Up-to-date information about the situation in Gaza is available from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Emergency Reports page at: www.unrwa.org/newsroom/emergency-reports
- An update about how Us is supporting the Al Ahli Hospital – and how to donate to support its rebuilding and ongoing work – can be found at: www.weareus.org.uk/latestupdates/gazahospital Us (formerly USPG) is supporting the Al Ahli Anglican Hospital in Gaza, thanks to generous donations to our Rapid Response Fund.
- You may like to have available a world map to show where and how small an area Gaza is, as well as some images of Gaza after the conflict, to show the scale of destruction, and the means to show them during the assembly.
- Close your eyes and take a few moments to imagine your perfect Christmas.
Where are you? Who are you with? What can you see? What can you hear? What does it smell like? What are you looking forward to and excited about?
Allow the students time to really visualize it in their minds. Then, take some answers from them about what they have imagined.
- Now, could you imagine what would be different without safe running water?
Take answers, which might include not being able to cook all the food, drink, use the bathroom, even water the tree!
- Could you imagine what would be different without electricity?
Take answers, which might include not being able to cook, no light (including on the tree), no music, no TV, films, video games or computers or Internet access, phones.
- Now, what would it be like if your house had been damaged or destroyed?
Take answers and encourage the students to expand on the implications of not being in their own homes.
- Give the students some background to the 50-day summer conflict in Israel and Gaza, particularly focusing on its devastating impact on the infrastructure of the country and the already very poor and very densely populated territory of Gaza. You may also like to mention other areas of conflict that have been in the news recently.
By the time of the ceasefire on 26 August:
– 450,000 people were without a safe water supply
– 18,000 homes had been destroyed or seriously damaged
– 110,000 were in emergency shelters or staying with other families
– the only power plant in Gaza was so damaged it couldn’t operate, meaning that most people only had electricity for a couple of hours a day...
For older students, you could also explore issues of food dependency and the loss of businesses and livelihoods.
- As Christmas approaches, we remember the birth of Jesus in a stable. Nowadays, we usually expect babies to be born in hospitals, but what could a mother about to have a baby do if the local hospital was damaged?
Talk about the damage done to Al Ahli Hospital, which is run by the Diocese of Jerusalem, and how important it is to rebuild and repair medical facilities.
People from all over the world are sending money to help repair the hospital and make sure that it can help people who are sick, injured – or about to have a baby – this Christmas.
If appropriate, mention that gifts could be sent to help the hospital rebuild.
- One of the titles given to Jesus is the Prince of Peace. For people in Gaza – and in other areas where conflict will be affecting people this Christmas – peace could be the biggest and very best present that they could hope to receive this Christmas.
Time for reflection
Let’s be quiet for a moment to think about all those people around the world whose Christmas will not be so merry because they are in areas affected by war and conflict.
Think about people with no water or electricity.
Think about people whose homes have been badly damaged or destroyed.
Let’s be thankful that we live in a place of peace and are free to celebrate Christmas with everything we need. Let’s try to remember how lucky we are this Christmas and share our gifts with those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
The prayer I am about to read is based on one from the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.
Spirit of God,
Who moves among us calling us to love and make things new, we pray that in the lands where Jesus was born, taught and healed, there may be peace.
‘Make me a channel of your peace’ (Come and Praise, 147)
‘Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me’, written by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller