Friday, December 07, 2007

TIRTA 3: the Old and the Young

In contemporary Middle Eastern culture, children and old people are extremely important. Children are a mark of success, to the extent that I have yet to meet an arab man who does not inquire about my children (just one) and smirk - then proudly tell me he has 3 or 4 or more children.

Indeed, I was reading a job advert for a UN job in an arab country. I'm not quite sure why it was in English, but anyway, it listed all the benefits of the job, which included some payments for dependent children - up to and including the seventh child.

Old people have a special position of honour within these large families. Grandchildren will kneel and kiss the hands of an old person, guests are often taken to meet the elderly in a special smart room in the house, kept for only that purpose. Not necessarily totally analogous to the biblical culture, but probably a lot closer than ours.

Which all puts a slightly different gloss onto the story of Elisabeth and Zechariah - which is not the only story in the bible of older people defying the odds and doing remarkable things. Zechariah was an important man in the religious hierarchy, yet carried the shame of childlessness into older age. I wonder how long they lived to see John growing up.

Things I Relearnt This Advent: Part 1 Part 2

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Blogger Aaron A. said...

Not too related, but I couldn't help thinking about the US and how many "Family values" candidates we have that are pro "big" business, and don't in turn do anything to help out the working family.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Thanks aaron, that is a good point. Our politicians regularly talk about some mythical 'biblical family values' yet there is little evidence of society valuing the elderly.

11:15 AM  

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