The President Who Stole Christmas

James M. Wall writes:

Below is an email from a close friend, Laurie Salameh. She lives in Jerusalem with her  husband Estephan, and their three children. I asked Laurie for permission to share her email, which she had circulated to friends. She gave her permission. 

Guest Posting by Laurie Salameh

President Trump stole our Christmas. And he did it standing in front of Christmas trees.

In what was an unusually polished speech (for him), President Trump announced the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and has plans to relocate the U.S. embassy to there from Tel Aviv. We sat on our couch watching, our hearts pounding and our fists clenching, wondering whether it was ignorance, lunacy or plain hubris that drove him to make this announcement.

How can one man decide to take our historical capital away and give it to another country? How can he do that without acknowledging the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live in Jerusalem? Who live in the city of their birth without access to services, without basic human rights, who live unacknowledged? What happens to them?

Prior to this announcement, we were in the first week of what was proving to be a joyous Christmas here in the Holy Land. Though we make up less than 2% of the population, Christmas is in full-swing in Palestine. Christmas trees in every shop and restaurant, Santa hats in cars and Christmas carols sung everywhere. Giant Christmas trees lit in the main squares of the cities with tens of thousands of Christians and Muslims celebrating together.

My son sang “Deck the Halls” in a performance for the Ramallah Municipality with his classmate Ahmad. And this is my point – while Muslims don’t practice Christmas traditions as part of their faith, they give Christians space and time to celebrate it and many even celebrate with us.

I’ve had lengthy conversations with my Muslim friends on who sells the best parts for gingerbread houses, who bakes the tastiest Christmas cookies, where to find the prettiest ornaments or the best church bazaars. We may constitute less than 2% of the population but we are 100% part of the community.

And that’s what makes President Trump’s pronouncement all the more sickening. With his declaration, the Christmas lights turned off. The Christmas music has quieted. The Christmas tree in Nativity Square in Bethlehem has gone dark. The Christmas spirit has been drowned out with the mourning of our stolen capital.

About a week ago in front of a crowd in Missouri, President Trump said “I told you we’d be saying Merry Christmas again.” I don’t know who hasn’t been saying “Merry Christmas,” because we sure have here in Palestine. But I can tell you this… we will celebrate Christmas this year, because Christmas is obviously more than the trees and lights and music… but it won’t be a merry one.

The Whovillians in Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, understood Christmas ‘came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.’ But at least they were able to celebrate Christmas in Whoville, their city, their home. President Trump stole our Christmas in Palestine right along with our capital, our history and our rights.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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10 Responses to The President Who Stole Christmas

  1. What did anyone expect from any person claiming to be Christian would don a skull cap and pray at the Wailing Wall instead of a Christian shrine when visiting the Holy Land?

  2. Ann Webber says:

    AMEN! This is heartbreaking, appalling, words aren’t adequate!

  3. David says:

    For the record regarding Jerusalem:

    Today’s Palestinians and their ancestors have lived continuously between the River and the Sea for at least 15,000 years.** The Jebusite/Canaanites were ancestors of today’s Palestinians and it was they who founded Jerusalem around 3000 BCE.

    It is estimated that the biblical Hebrews did not invade until circa 1800 BCE and their resulting United Kingdom of Israel, which never controlled the coast from Jaffa to Gaza, lasted a mere 75 years, less than a blip in the history of Canaan and Palestine.

    Originally known as Jebus, the first recorded reference to it as “Rushalimum” (or “Urussalim”) appears in Egyptian Execration Texts of the nineteenth century BCE, nearly 800 years before it is alleged King David was born.

    BTW, thus far, no archaeological evidence, or more importantly, writings of contemporaneous civilizations, have been found that prove Solomon or David actually existed. (Nor has any evidence been discovered to confirm that the Jewish exodus from Egypt ever occurred. )

    To quote renowned Jewish Israeli writer/columnist, Uri Avnery: “[David and Solomon’s] existence is disproved, inter alia, by their total absence from the voluminous correspondence of Egyptian rulers and spies in the Land of Canaan.” (“A Curious National Home,” by Uri Avnery, May 13/17 –

    Regarding West and East Jerusalem in 1947:
    The total population of West Jerusalem (the New City) and East Jerusalem (the Old City) and their environs was about 200,000 with a slight Arab majority. (Professor Walid Khalidi, Harvard, “Plan Dalet,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Autumn, 1988, p. 17)

    The total land area of West Jerusalem (the New City) in 1947 was 19,331 dunams (about 4,833 acres) of which 40 per cent was owned by Palestinian Muslims and Christians, 26.12 per cent by Jews and 13.86 per cent by others, including Christian communities. Government and municipal land made up 2.90 per cent and roads and railways 17.12 per cent.

    East Jerusalem (the Old City) consisted of 800 dunams (about 240 acres) of which five dunams (just over one acre) were Jewish owned and the remaining 795 dunams were owned by Palestinian Muslims and Christians. (“Assessing Palestinian Property in the City,” by Dalia Habash and Terry Rempel, Jerusalem 1948: The Arab Neighbourhoods and their Fate in the War, edited by Salim Tamari, The Institute of Jerusalem Studies, 1999, map, pp. 184-85)

    Front. Genet., 21 June 2017 |
    The Origins of Ashkenaz, Ashkenazic Jews, and Yiddish
    “Recent genetic samples from bones found in Palestine dating to the Epipaleolithic (20000-10500 BCE) showed remarkable resemblance to modern day Palestinians.”

  4. John Kleinheksel says:

    Jim, I have met Laurie and Estaphan, while on the ground in I/P. Beautiful family!
    What a trenchant word from Laurie, yet with a note of defiant celebration of the Spirit of Christmas anyway. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot put it out.
    Our President has abdicated the role of “honest broker”. At least for his Presidency, the US and the Israelis are one, eternal, undivided Empire. Let others more worthy seek to negotiate with US about our Israeli friends and their treatment of the indigenous people whose dignity continues to be trashed. Grassroots, rise up; slowly lift the heavy concrete covering the people. So that it becomes unmistakable, obvious and “why didn’t we think of that before? Of course. It’s the only right thing to do”.
    The Emperor has no clothes. Even the fig leaf to cover the Palestinians has been blown away. We stand naked, embarrassed and ashamed before the whole world. God help us.

  5. Convincing and compelling, Jim. Thanks to and blessings on Ms. Salameh (even my rudimentary Arabic tells me that her name is a direct derivative of salama/salaam/peace), her family, and all Palestinians.

  6. Patricia says:

    Excellent. I’m not really in the spirit of celebration this year. Wondering what to do about the ignorance , complacency of the AMERICAN people that continuous to allow Trump to commit chaos with words and actions.

  7. Samia Khoury says:

    Thank you Laurie for this well articulated piece. This afternoon as we gathered at my son’s house to put up the Christmas tree, I told everybody, he cannot do this to us. He cannot deprive us of our Christmas. Unfortunately he already has because the whole region is inflamed and our main concern now are the young people who are facing the music of the bullets instead of the Christmas Carols. God bless you and your family Laurie, and thanks Jim for posting this moving piece. For more, see click here

  8. David says:

    Radio interview with Professor Hani Faris regarding Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital:

    “U. S president Donald Trump announced Wednesday that it will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital . Adjunct professor of Political Science at the University of British of Columbia, Dr. Hani Faris provides some historical context to Israel’s claim to Jerusalem.”

  9. Diane Wells says:

    This is new for me, but it is so sad that our President thinks more about his promises, than the promises of our Lord for peace and love and kindness in our world. Thank you for sharing what this proclamation meant to so many. Diane Wells

  10. Mona Mange says:

    I am appalled at President Trump’s ignorance bordering on stupidity. FOX news repeated the president’s declaration about Jerusalem with glee. How much more does America revel in ignorance? Wake up Americans and read a history book. Mr President please get educated about human rights and history.

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