Bethlehem Day 5

Its very difficult to write the reality here.

Last evening, after class, I was invited by some of the participants, all Muslem, to visit the Nativity Church and the manger. Because I was with them, I got access to areas of the Church I did not see on Friday–and they graciously shared their understanding of the significance and power of Jesus life, and the holiness and historic magnificence of this place. As one enters the Church, there is a large sign stating that the roof repairs, taking place now, are being funded by the President of Palestine. Apparently, personally.

As we stood in a small cave under the current Church, I blurted out–without thinking–”Jesus was a Palestinian”. My friends laughed, and say “You didn’t know he was born in Bethlehem?”. I replied that I did–but never had anyone in all my readings, studying, conversations about Jesus’ life—ever acknowledged that Jesus is Palestinian. He was born in Bethlehem when the land was called Palestine (I think–or something like that), and Bethlehem is now in Palestine.

So, he might be considered a Palestinian–to the extent that these boundaries have any relevance to his life.

I continue to be not surprised and deeply disturbed by what I am learning about the day to day realities of people’s lives here. I heard a story today about a young man from one of the camps that has been home to Palestinians since 1948, who was injured by fighting some years ago, and was treated by a therapist for the trauma. In doing depth work with him, she learned that he–like many Palestinians–has a long history of trauma, and layers of exposure to terrible experiences. And the most significant trauma in his life? When he was 6, he and a group of his peers were given permission to go to the beach. Most Palestinian children here today have never seen the ocean–they have no access. Delighted to finally see the sea, they ran into the water, and within 5 minutes, were dragged out by Israeli soldiers who told them “you are not allowed in this ocean. It is for us.”

That was the most significant trauma of his life. To have been–and to still be–kept away from the sea.

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