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Every year since 1976, on March 30, Palestinians around the world have commemorated Land Day. Though it may sound like an environmental celebration, Land Day marks a bloody day in Israel when security forces gunned down six Palestinians, as they protested Israeli expropriation of Arab-owned land in the country’s north to build Jewish-only settlements.

The Land Day victims were not Palestinians from the occupied territories, but citizens of the state, a group that now numbers over 1.6 million people, or 20.5 percent of the population. They are inferior citizens in a state that defines itself as Jewish and democratic, but in reality is neither.

On that dreadful day, in response to Israel’s announcement of a plan to expropriate thousands of acres of Palestinian land for “security and settlement purposes,” a general strike and marches were organized in Palestinian towns within Israel, from the Galilee to the Negev. The night before, in a last-ditch attempt to block the planned protests, the government imposed a curfew on the Palestinian villages of Sakhnin, Arraba, Deir Hanna, Tur'an, Tamra and Kabul, in the Western Galilee. The curfew failed; citizens took to the streets. Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as those in the refugee communities across the Middle East, joined in solidarity demonstrations.

In the ensuing confrontations with the Israeli army and police, six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed, about 100 wounded, and hundreds arrested. The day lives on, fresh in the Palestinian memory, as in 1976, the conflict is not limited to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but is ever-present in the country’s treatment of its own Palestinian Arab citizens.

The month following the killings, an internal government paper, written by senior Interior Ministry official Yisrael Koenig, was leaked to the press. The document, which became known as the Koenig Memorandum, offered recommendations intended to “ensure the [country’s] long-term Jewish national interests.” These included “the possibility of diluting existing Arab population concentrations.”

Israel has been attempting to “dilute” its Palestinian population - both Muslims and Christians - ever since.

the situation is as dire as ever. Racism and discrimination, in their rawest forms, are rampant in Israel, and are often more insidious than physical violence. Legislation aimed at ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Israel is part of public discourse. Israeli ministers do not shy away from promoting “population transfers” of Palestinian citizens - code for forced displacement.

22nd July >> 'A woman to admire' ~ Daily Reflection on Today's Gospel Reading for Roman Catholics on the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene.

In recent years St Mary Magdalene has become the best known celebrity of the early church, in the popular mind. Even before Dan Brown’s sensationalism in The Da Vinci Code she was one around whom apocryphal myths and legends gathered: that she was descended from a noble family, that she married Jesus and had his child, that she was a high priestess in a Roman temple at Magdala, that after the resurrection she went to France, or to Ephesus with Mary the mother of Jesus. Not all of these can be true, and probably none of them is factual. So what do we know of the real Mary Magdalene?

The Gospel calls her “Mary who is named Magdalene,” meaning that she came from Magdala, a small town near Tiberias on the western shore of lake Galilee. We don’t know anything about her family background, but if she was one of the women who travelled with Jesus and supported him financially (Lk 8:2), she must have had some independent income. According to both Mark and Luke, Mary had had seven demons driven out of her by Jesus. She was present at his crucifixion and burial and of course, as in today’s Gospel, his resurrection. Several key items from the popular image of Mary Magdalene are missing from the summary above. Wasn’t she the woman caught in adultery, and didn’t she pour ointment over Jesus’s feet and wipe it up with her hair? But in fact we do not know the name of the woman who was caught in adultery. The Mary who poured ontiment over Jesus’s feet in John’s gospel was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus and the story of the anointing of Jesus’s feet in Luke’s gospel doesn’t name the woman involved. It may have been Magdalene but we just don’t know.

The Mary Magdalene most people think they know is a combination of several women mentioned in the Gospels. So, how would we feel if Mary Magdalene were to walk into our company today? Would we accept that we know nothing about her and try to find out more? Or would we cling to all those colourful impressions about her, thinking they might be true, for they say there’s no smoke without fire? Would our judgement be based on the real person, or on the Magdalene of gossip and rumour. Too many people tend to make judgements first and find out the facts later. People who want to follow Christ need to be aware of the temptation to pre-judge others. We all carry our own prejudices based on who we are, what we have experienced and where we are in life. As one who suffered in her mental health (being rid by Jesus of her “seven demons”) Mary Magdalene probably had to endure negative responses from others. Who would want to go near a madwoman? Parents would warn their children to avoid her in case they too got possessed by a demon, like her. Yet Jesus reached out to her in kindness, reached out to the real Mary, the woman behind the facade people saw because of the tales that had been told about her. Mary responded by devoting the rest of her life to following Jesus and supporting his ministry, no matter what it might cost, financially or emotionally.

In popular devotion Mary Magdalene is patroness of penitents, reformed prostitutes, perfumers, hairdressers, and apothecaries. In paintings she is depicted in a posture of penance or an attitude of reflection, at the Foot of the Cross or before a Crucifix, at the empty tomb, or meeting the risen Christ (often with the words “Noli me tangere”-“Touch Me not”-inscribed in the painting), or carried by angels after her death. She is often symbolized by her alabaster jar; a skull symbolizing penance and a mirror; long, unveiled hair (often red); tears and red robes.