An overwhelming shock in the Palestinian Territories was driving to school the day after the elections and seeing the green flags and green banners everywhere in Ramallah. It was announced that the election results would take several days before the final count and no matter how corrupt and negligent the Fatah Party of the late Yasser Arafat has been in the last ten years, it was assumed they would control the majority of the Palestinian Parliament as moderate people who can negotiate peace with Israel. We voted and went to sleep with these comforting thoughts and woke up with 76 out of the 132 seats in the legislative council going to Hamas, the extreme Islamic Resistant Movement recognized by their symbolic green flag. This is the new green sky we must look up to for leadership in the Holy Land.
The Hamas victory in the Palestinian political system simply means that the people were fed up with leaders who did nothing for them. They wanted a change and had limited choices. They want to shoulder the poverty, the poor health care, the Israeli occupation, the 60% unemployment, the absence of a social security system all on Hamas renowned for social services. This overwhelming political gain for Hamas was the only way for the voters to punish the Fatah party that forgot about the people and lived the good life while the majority of the Palestinians suffer to live on a few dollars a day. Even in a small Christian village like Taybeh, 28 votes went to Hamas and I was personally shocked why a Christian would vote for a fundamental Islamic position but it was the only revenge people could take to send a message to the Fatah party that they are fed up and Fatah has simply failed the people with no strategic planning and no political vision for the future.
As a Christian woman under a Hamas government, I am not at all worried that I have to veil up and wear the long skirts, this is the least of my problems and in order to keep walking the footsteps of the Lord, I will certainly follow these superficial rules. What really worries most people on the ground is which way Hamas will focus. Will they select a moderate point of view and transform themselves to be statesmen? Or will they select an extreme religious pro Islamic rule. Is it possible to separate religion from state politics?
In order for the international community to continue support for Palestine, it seems Hamas has no choice but to go moderate and first among all things accept living side by side to Israel. Ramallah is currently one of the few cities in Palestine that is modern, open in culture and thought and has some type of a night life. Most of us want to see Ramallah keep some of these liberal ways of life. Women walking the streets in western clothing have been acceptable. Men and women sitting together in cafes and restaurants do not turn heads. I feel if Hamas wants to be accepted by the world and survive in the long term, it must adjust some of its extreme fundamental view points and at a minimum not change the social and cultural rules in Ramallah. Gaza, Nablus, Hebron and Jenin are opposite social life of Ramallah. It will be very tragic to lose the Ramallah we know and love.
If Hamas selects a strict Islamic position it will isolate Palestine from any financial and moral support that the international community has offered since even before the Oslo Agreement. It will greatly affect our educational system if the Ministry of Education does not allow the current freedom of choice when it comes to the Islamic religion. In private schools, Christian students currently have the choice to take Christian religion instead of Islamic religion. Facing a new curriculum will be a challenge. If Hamas reinforces the strict teachings of the Koran where alcohol is forbidden, my husband better work on a new non-alcoholic Taybeh Beer recipe fast or the Taybeh Brewing Company will be shut down as three breweries closed doors in Iran.
These two alternatives for Hamas will greatly affect our life on the ground. But what worries me more is the struggle that could play out while members of Hamas or others members of the Palestinian Parliament try to influence the leadership for either alternative. We could be at the brink of a civil war or on the road to a moderate and democratic Palestinian state. The first indication of this battle revealed itself the moment Hamas members took down the Palestinian Flag in Ramallah and replaced it with their Party Flag, the green one to celebrate the victory that even Hamas itself did not expect. Of course shooting and fighting followed among all present. This fighting among Palestinians scares me more than seeing Israeli soldiers putting guns to my son's head on the way to school.
Thus for the moment, all of us on the ground are waiting to see the sky either remain blue or turn green depending which alternative road Hamas will select. Pray for us as we are facing not only the Israeli occupation but the strict Islamic rule. May the ramifications of this political earthquake be bearable. Either way the Christian response if found in Matthew 5: "Love your enemies; Do good to those who hate you; Bless those who curse you; Pray for those who abuse you; Turn the other check to those who strike you." For the Christian community, the new Palestinian government will be the earthly test for the true witness for Christ.
Dr. Khoury is the chairperson of the Taybeh Orthodox Housing Project which has started to build twelve homes for Orthodox Christian families in Taybeh-Ramallah to help maintain the Christian presence in the Holy Land with the help of the Boston Greek Orthodox Metropolis.
She was born in the US, but moved to Taybeh (biblical Ephraim) after marrying David Khoury, an Orthodox Christian Palestinian.
Maria Khoury is author of Witness in the Holy Land and the new children's book, "Christina's True Heroes" about seven women saints.