The Wash

Prayer vigil and peaceful protest for Palestinians staged during National Christmas Tree lighting

A group of about 30 people gathered at the Ellipse to call for peace in Palestine.

Protestors gathered at the Ellipse this evening to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, using the lighting of the National Christmas Tree to garner attention for their cause.

The protest and prayer vigil was staged outside of the entrance for the National Christmas Tree, in view of the White House. About 30 protestors stood alongside the lines of people waiting to enter the park for the tree lighting, singing and offering pamphlets from the Institute for Middle East Understanding. 

One of the organizers for the vigil is Philip Farah, a founding member of the Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace (PCAP). Farah is a Palestinian Christian who grew up in Jerusalem, with many family members in Gaza.

“My family members lived in the Zeitoun [Gaza] neighborhood, close to their Church of St. Porphyrius, one of the oldest churches in the world,” Farah said. “Israel bombed St. Porphyrius on Oct. 19, killing many who were sheltering there. Four of those killed were my relatives.”

Farah said that PCAP worked with a multitude of other organizations to stage the protest and prayer vigil, and that he was just one part of a much larger movement.

“My group advocates for peace and justice in the Holy Land,” Farah said. “But this Christmas, there’s no semblance of any peace or justice in Bethlehem.”

The protestors crowd against the entrance to the tree lighting at the Ellipse. Madeleine Sherer/The Wash

Many of the protestors who spoke to The Wash asked not to be named for fear of repercussions faced by people voicing their support for Palestine.

“I’m here because I believe in humanity, and I think what is happening right now is so horrific. It violates almost every single humanitarian law,” one such protestor said. “We need a permanent ceasefire. Enough is enough.”

Another protestor, who went by the name Jane, said she woke up this morning thinking about what Joe Biden’s mother might think of his decisions regarding Palestine and Israel.

“I looked her [Biden’s mother] up and found this quote that sort of sang out to me: ‘Courage is the greatest virtue, because without it, we cannot love with abandon,’” Jane said. “Biden needs to find the courage to stand up to the people who are telling him anything other than what his conscience, and what the Pope, is saying. The Pope is coming through to say that this violence is terrorism.”

Jane referred to a recent call by Pope Francis for a ceasefire and release of Israeli hostages.

A sign made by one of the protestors featuring a quote from President Joe Biden’s mother, Catherine Eugenia Biden. Madeleine Sherer/The Wash

Another protestor said she just wanted to see both sides come together to work toward peace.

“I would just like to see peace,” this protestor said. “This killing, and this violence is horrible. It’s horrific. I don’t sleep when I think about it at night.”

Another protestor said that as an Arab-American, she had a strong personal investment in Palestinian cause.

“I have to say that the Palestinian cause is near not just to everyone who is seeing this awful carnage, but to Arabs around the world. Not just Palestinians,” she said. “Billions of tax dollars are going to Israel for arms, instead of reparations, instead of money for the schools, instead of housing. I think the average American doesn’t want our names on these bombs that are coming to Israel and killing thousands of Palestinian children.”

Farah said that Palestinian Christian communities in Israel had canceled their Christmas celebrations due to the violence and injustice.

“How can they celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem when their countrymen are being slaughtered in Gaza?” Farah said. “They canceled celebrations in Bethlehem because there is no peace or justice in the place where Jesus was born, no peace under a murderous Israeli occupation.”

Madeleine Sherer

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