Sunday, December 16, 2007

TIRTA 6: The road to Bethlehem

I've been thinking some more about the donkey thing. To travel today between Galilee and Bethlehem, you travel along Route 90, a road which appears to exist within the Palestinian controlled West Bank and away from the rest of Israel, yet in reality is a closed road for the military and settlers.

I travelled along it last year, and it is a strange journey. It runs down from Galilee, alongside the Jordan, through many miles of apparently empty land - save for the odd settler farm, past Israeli settlements, past Jericho (now totally surrounded by settlements), past the odd very poor refugee camps with people living under tents and down to Jerusalem.

I'd imagine it isn't particularly pleasant walking, but then maybe not as dramatic as we are used to hearing. It is pretty dry, but we're not talking about walking across desert sand dunes. It is about 70 miles, so several days of walking.

Bethlehem/Beit Sahour/Beit Jala lies above Jerusalem, so the final part of the journey would be a bit of a climb. However, we are still talking hills rather than full mountains.

A rather more hazardous journey would have been the escape into Egypt, probably via Gaza. I've not been that far north in Egypt, but I understand it to be extremely hot and barren. Once in Egypt, it is unlikely that these refugees would have been treated particularly well. Today's Egyptians see themselves as descendants from the Pharaohs rather than Africans, Arabs or anyone else. To be a refugee in Egypt today is not a good experience.

So to summarise - there might/might not have been a donkey, the journey was long but not particularly arduous (and probably one they made on a semi-regular basis), there was no stable, no inn, no innkeeper. Having been found by local shepherds and strange visitors, the family at some unspecified later point had to escape into Egypt, which was more likely to be a difficult journey, made in a hurry and to a country which didn't really want them. At some unspecified later point, it was safe and the family returned to live in Galilee. The next we hear is from Jesus' early teens in Luke's gospel (which interestingly does not mention the escape to Egypt).

I wonder how this experience of being in danger and unwanted affected the family. How Joseph and Mary survived without permanent mental scarring and/or illness - given their experience with angels etc. And funny how the story is so often couched in terms of victory and success when in at least one account it includes elements of fear and last minute escape.

Things I Relearnt This Advent: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home