Sunday, June 16, 2024


Title: The First Advent in Palestine

Author: Kelley Nikondeha

Publisher: Broadleaf Books

Pages: 214

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The First Advent in Palestine was a beautiful book that stripped Advent of all the holiday revelry that pervades this holy time today and set it in the context of the conflict-ridden milieu in which Christ was born. It wasn’t a peaceful time by any means, and yet very few people point out the violence that that era of human history was fraught with.

The Palestine of the first Advent was just as conflict ridden as it is today. The types of dangers that people faced differed, but life then, as now, was unpredictable and frightening.


The author juxtaposes the past with the present. Most newspapers and TV channels won’t even talk about the truth of what people in Palestine are grappling with. The sheer trauma on account of Israel’s cruelty. Tear gas, stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets and an ongoing genocide are the reality of the people of Palestine.

The author draws parallels between then and now, helping us to see their humanity and empathise with their struggles. Shepherds, she tells us, were the “essential workers” of that time. Today’s tyrannical and insecure leaders is what Herod was.

The author upturns our long-held notions about how there was no room at the inn, telling us that’s not how Palestinians are.

Along the way, she introduces us to Israeli Messianic Jews, Jews who believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

The book is non-fiction, but the writing is literary and luminous.

One thing you can do in the dark is light a candle. Another is tell a story.

In fraught places, childhood is complex.

There is a fierceness that coexists with kindness.

I must admit that I haven’t read much of the Old Testament. But reading this book, I got a better understanding of the force of God’s promise of peace to the world. It helped me to understand the context of the Gospel, how Christ wasn’t born in a picture-perfect crib. Reading this book took away the tinsel and holly and made the season real.

It’s ironic how it’s now the Jewish state of Israel that is visiting death and destruction on others, namely, the people of Palestine. We don’t speak enough about the pain being unleashed and perpetrated in Palestine.

The book looks at the traumatised people of Palestine through the lens of humanity to acknowledge their suffering. It takes us along to bear witness to Zachariah’s story and Mary’s too, the former of disbelief, the latter of acceptance. Alongside these, we read the stories of Palestinians today, Sliman Mansour, Nafez Assaily etc.

The book forced me to think of things I hadn’t considered. Like how silent night, holy night doesn’t necessarily mean peaceful because nightfall brings dangers. Only privilege can equate silence with peace. I realised that as we go from year to year, from Advent to Lent and back, the need for that peace remains.

Flight to Egypt, a painting by Palestinian painter Sliman Mansour, has been used on the cover. The image of Mary, the infant in her arms, with a UN care package, reinforces how the Holy Family was seeking normalcy and peace in their lives.

This is the book I didn’t even know I wanted.

(I read this book on Edelweiss. Thank you to the author, the publisher and Edelweiss.) 


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