The REAL Nativity. If it happened today. December 21, 2013 02:38
Three wise men were ready to set off from the East. They had packed gold, frankincense and myrrh on their camels, to deliver as gifts to the infant Jesus. As they were about to leave, they received some bad news. Israel, the country occupying the land where Jesus was to be born, had declared that bringing gifts or aid to Palestinians like Jesus was clearly political motivated, and anyone bringing gifts would be stopped. But the wise men were not to be put off, and in their wisdom, decided that the baby Jesus still needed these gifts. So they set off on their way regardless.
[Manger Square in Bethlehem. Palestinian Christians decorated it with tear gas canisters fired at them by Israeli soldiers. Photo from Demotix.com]
As they approached the land of Palestine, they saw armed men from the Israeli military approach their caravan. They came quickly, and entered the caravan of camels. While trying to defend themselves in the ensuing scuffle, many of the camels and Melchior, one of the wise men, were killed by Israeli fire. Later, the Israelis were to claim that Melchior had incensed them with a threat using a particularly lethal looking stick of frankincense, and that they had to extinguish him and the frankincense in self defence.
Balthasar was kidnapped by the soldiers and taken to a different port. But thankfully, Caspar managed to avoid detection with his camels, and he carried on his way. Sadly though, all the gifts had already been taken away as neither gold, nor frankincense nor myrrh were on the list of 87 items which were deemed by Israel to be allowable for Palestinians like Jesus.
As Caspar got closer to Bethlehem, his journey slowed considerably. He was unable to take the most direct routes to Bethlehem, as these routes were only for the use of the Israeli Jewish settlers, and were forbidden to him as his camels did not have an Israeli number plate. To make matters worse, every few miles, he was stopped by an Israeli checkpoint and subjected to random and humiliating searches and waits. Occasionally he wasn't let through and told to find a different route. And on many occasions, he was slowed down by settlers who would stone his caravan as he went by, with the Israeli soldiers standing by to ensure that he didn't retaliate.
When he had had enough of this, Caspar started a peaceful one-man demonstration for right of way. But as soon as he did this, he was shot by a most moral Israeli soldier with a rubber bullet. Actually, it was a normal bullet coated in rubber, but that’s probably a technicality. Except that that small difference meant that the bullet went through his skull and he was killed instantly.
Meanwhile, the baby Jesus's mother, Mary, was trying to get to a hospital to deliver her baby. But this was proving too difficult a task. She and Joseph had a car, but it had been burned in an arson attack by the local settlers, and the words "price tag" had been scrawled on their door. So they had started the journey with their donkey, but he also died along the way of thirst as the water had been diverted to fill swimming pools for the settlers and very little was left for Palestinian farms and homes.
Like Caspar, they were not allowed to use the best roads, which were segregated and only for Israeli Jewish settlers. Mary and Joseph were spat on by settlers as they walked past, and called 'self-hating Jews' because they questioned how Israel was treating them and other Palestinians. When they tried to catch a bus, they were stopped from boarding as the buses were for the use of Jewish Israeli settlers only, and not for the native Palestinians of the land. And alas, they were turned away at the whim of a 20 year old Israeli soldier at the last checkpoint despite Mary's advanced state.
When they were on the verge of arriving into Behlehem, they were confronted by a massive wall that now almost entirely surrounded the town. They were not even sure it was Bethlehem on the other side, as the wall was so high it may as well have been Amsterdam. Except that would have been a much longer walk and colder, so probably not Amsterdam. Maybe Jenin. As they walked around the wall to get to an entrance point to Bethlehem, they eventually found a gate that would see them through. But unfortunately, the soldiers who were supposed to be manning it were nowhere to be seen.
So Mary and Joseph had to just wait. And wait. Mary's contractions got more frequent. At the last minute, Joseph remembered that there was a barn this side of the wall. The rest of the farm was on the other side, but as the wall ignored Palestinian farmland, the barn and animals had been left on this side. So they walked the final few hundred yards. Except when they got there, the barn was no longer there, and in its place was a pile of rubble. The barn had been bulldozed by the Israeli army just a few days earlier for allegedly not having a permit. Despite being on the farmer's land, which his family had owned for generations.
So the baby Jesus was delivered on a pile of rubble, next to the note that invoiced the farmer for demolition services owed to the Israeli army for destroying his manger. No wise men made it, and no gifts. No shepherds tending their flocks by night, as the curfew imposed on them meant they couldn't leave their homes. But as a Palestinian Christian, the rest of the world did not hear of Jesus’s suffering, and just assumed that he would be a terrorist when he grew up. And that Joseph and Mary had brought it all on themselves by leaving home in the first place.
[The characters portrayed in this story may or may not be fictitious, depending on your religious beliefs. However, the events portrayed in here are factual and happening daily to Palestinians - Muslim, Christian, agnostic or just human. And indeed, to many foreigners and Israelis who try to help seek justice for Palestinians. So this Christmas as you celebrate, please save a prayer and vow to undertake an action to support Palestine's Christians. And Muslims. And all humans. And to support the moral codes that Christianity, Islam and Judaism all espouse. And finally, to keep an open mind and to support justice. I wish you all peace and safety this Christmas and New Year]
The Amos Trust has a Christmas pack for churches about Bethlehem 2013. Click here to download it.