Can Mary get to Bethlehem?

I am honoured to be handing my blog over today to Christian women living in Israel and Palenstine who share their stories - they are the missing voice in this blogging world and today and in a recent series they are the voice of a modern day Mary. They are Another Voice.

Photo provided by Another Voice from WallWritings
Recently we have been contemplating how Mary would travel to Bethlehem if she had to go there in 2014.  Here, we would like to share two different experiences with you.  While they are imagined, they reflect the reality in Israel and Palestine today.  
The two bloggers below considered the following questions: “If I were Mary, and I had to go to Bethlehem today, how would I get there?” And, “What might I see, think and experience along the way?”

Q (Israeli): Coming to Bethlehem in the winter when I live on the coastlands of Jewish Israel is a challenge; especially if I were 9 months pregnant and heavy with child. When I think of Mary, making the long journey of more than 100 kilometers from Nazareth, living in this time seems far easier.

Today we have cars and trains and busses, but travel from where I live to Bethlehem is actually more difficult than it would have been in Mary’s day. Mary at least had free access to Bethlehem. I do not.

Borders, barriers, walls, checkpoints and soldiers all have to be negotiated. I am not free to cross the border into Palestine without prior permission from my government. I’ve tried and the best I can manage is permission to come in for a day, but certainly not for a night. Having a baby would mean I need to spend at least one night in the forbidden city of Bethlehem. Yes, I could break the law and find a circuitous way into Bethlehem, risking being stopped, turned away, fined, or threatened with imprisonment. If I did decide to take the risk and come into Bethlehem to give birth, it would be without any insurance coverage, and being cared for by a staff who most likely wouldn’t know my language.

Returning to Israel would be more of a challenge than actually traveling there and having a baby. My baby would be stateless and have no rights as a citizen of either Israel or Palestine.  I could easily face a lengthy judicial process for having chosen to break the law and have my child in “enemy” territory. Would I risk my child being stateless for the sake of my principles? I’m thankful I don’t have to make that choice today.  

Abbsi (Palestinian): I am so close to Nativity Church, maybe five minutes away.  The road to Bethlehem is smooth and easy from my home, likely much better than it was 2000 years ago.  But believe me when I tell you, I would be sad to have my baby in Bethlehem. There is no checkpoint blocking me, no unpleasant interaction with soldiers that would upset me. There is more to it.  I know that a child who is born in Bethlehem, my child, would be treated as the least among all the nations.  We are a nation that some of the strongest nations don’t recognize.  His rights will be consistently trampled on, ignored, and his national identity demonized and delegitimized.
Many thoughts run through my mind on this short five minute trip to Bethlehem.  I know my son’s birth, his childhood, his life will be filled with emotional and psychological stress.  A gigantic wall will block his view of the rolling hills toward Jerusalem, a reminder that our right to self-determination is dependent on another that holds so tightly to their self-expression that it chokes ours.  We look up from our home and see the looming settlements, built as a fortress above us, built on land stolen from our people.  And then we glance to the skies above, as we stand on the hills where the angels will appear to the shepherds, where they will announce that my son’s birth is a joy for all people.  This is my home, filled with so much of the divine and profane, images and memories of hope and occupation.
As I walk to Bethlehem, the thoughts that fill my mind are fearful, not pleasant.  What can a future hold for a child of Bethlehem?
Contemplating these questions, putting ourselves in Mary’s shoes, reminds us that Jesus lived in a world much like ours.  It was a world marked by division, tension, conflict and strife.  While the situation surrounding his birth was complicated, his presence, his vocation, and his obedience offer a vision of hope, joy and peace for all humanity.  Jesus reminds us that God seeks to put the world to rights, to restore that which is broken. Christmas is a reminder that God’s light shines in the darkness, and that we can share in his vision by reflecting this light of Jesus, our Messiah, to those around us.  
May this Christmas be a time of reflection on the incarnation, and give you hope in your context.  From Israel and Palestine, we wish you a blessed holiday.
Another Voice: We have a blog initiated by a group Christian women living in Israel and Palestine. Among our regular contributors are Palestinians from the West Bank, Jerusalemite Palestinians, Israeli Jews, Israeli Palestinians, and internationals married to locals in the Holy Land.  We share our life experiences living in the midst of conflict, including the struggles, the humor, and our shared hope and commitment to peace.  To see the rest of this series, “Can Mary Get to Bethlehem?”, click for part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. So powerful! I must say I read every word, interested in seeing how this journey would be different today. Thank you to all who shared. #raralinkup