December 24, 2007

Bethlehem bound: Is it safe?

Janet, Brian, Caroline, and Vivienne Reed 

Janet, Brian, Caroline, and Vivienne Reed are in Manger Square, in the center of Bethlehem. Here, in the Church of the Nativity, in the Grotto where tradition says Jesus was born, they are celebrating the ancient birth narrative in lessons, carols, theatrical enactments, and liturgical services.

The Reeds rode an armored bus from the Anglican Church in Jerusalem to cross through the large Israel Defense Forces (IDF) checkpoint to Bethlehem, a short though security-conscious journey that they hesitated to make.

Their hesitation? In May 2002, Israeli-Palestinian fighting erupted when Islamist terrorists seized the Church of the Nativity, holding hostage dozens of Christian nuns, priests, monks, and pilgrims for weeks, and desecrating their holy site. For this and other reasons, many Western governments warned against nonessential travel to Bethlehem. Yet new peace talks among the fighting parties encouraged my friends to join today's flow of pilgrims, tourists, families, and clusters of friends.

Green light to Christmas Eve in Bethlehem
Aviah, my cousin who recently completed three years' service in the IDF elite Paratroopers Brigade, relayed this message to the Reeds when I called him to inquire on safety conditions:
. . . Tell your friends the Israeli army will protect them.

Lisa Goldman, freelance journalist/writer, resident of Tel Aviv, and uber blogger, replied to my email:
. . . Bethlehem is quiet and safe, and there will be plenty of people around. I'm sure they'll have a good time.

* * *
Closer to home, here in Atlanta, I joined Stephanie's family to watch the children, Bethlehem bound in spirit, retell the Nativity birth story (that Angela directed) in their church.

Seated behind these angels (waiting in their wings for the cue to perform) and basking in their sweetness and light, their wonder moved me to tears. Reflecting on the same wonder I have felt at their age and since, listening to and retelling my family’s millennia-long Jewish history, tradition, and lessons, I knew this:

We — the Reeds, Stephanie's and Angela's families, others', and mine all experience sacred time, and we all retell our sacred stories.

Today, I am sending love to my Christian friends worldwide, among them the Reeds, David and Hope, Faye and Jim, Josh, Madeline, Jonathan, Luther and Helen, Joe, James and Anissa, Danny, Marlene, Olga, Budd and family, Ellen, and virtual pals Nizo and Bronze. And, I am remembering my Christian loved ones, whose memories are a blessing: Stella, Jean, and Kathy.

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Lirun said...

if u want to see the festival in yaffo feel welcome to visit my blog

Anonymous said...

NOTE FROM TAMAR: This message came via email from the Reeds.

Greetings from Jerusalem!! We are having a GREAT time and are loving our trip. We made it to Bethlehem last night — a total zoo. A massive (NYC Times Square-ish) crowd in Manger Square, which we had to navigate with the girlies. Then pushed through the barrier into the Church of the Nativity, through the labyrinth of that amazing church to a tiny Greek Orthodox chapel where we had lessons and carols (a cappella) with Mahmoud Abbas (super security detail included) and about 90 other "pilgrims," mostly English-speaking but lots of Arabs/Arabic speakers as well. Made it into the grotto (where J was born) for a quick touch, then back through the throng. Exhilarating and scary, but glad we did it.

littlepurplecow said...

How wonderful to hear about the Reeds' journey. What an amazing experience. Tamar, thank you so much for thinking of us at such a special time. Your ability to connect, understand and love people is quite amazing.

BronzeBuckaroo said...

Don't tease me! BUT, this post caused my eyes to water up. You take good care of yourself and have a Happy New 2008!

I am going to embarrass you.
Yes, you are a wonderful person who will always be in my heart and thoughts.

Anonymous said...

dear Tamar ,thanks so much for putting us in your blog report. I love reeding the great things you write about us.

the conked one