Advent mini-meditations from Mennonite Church Manitoba's working group on Palestine and Israel.
3. Traveling to Bethlehem
Part of the wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian territory of the West Bank.
All went to their own towns to be registered. --Luke 2:3
When Emperor Augustus decreed that the people of the land return to their ancestral towns to be registered for tax, Mary and Joseph journeyed from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, a village just south of Jerusalem in the region of Judea---a three-day walk. It was an arduous journey. Mary was advanced in her pregnancy. The countryside was hilly and rocky, and the road rugged. Today, despite the conveniences of modern transportation, travel between Nazareth and Bethlehem is difficult for Israelis and Palestinians. Nazareth is in Israel, and Bethlehem is in the West Bank, a Palestinian territory that has been under the military occupation of Israel for 51 years. Israelis are barred from traveling in the West Bank, and Palestinians may enter Israel only with permits, which are often difficult to obtain. At numerous checkpoints at borders and on roads, Palestinian travelers often experience humiliation and fear. God of justice, we recognize freedom of movement as a hallmark of human dignity. Hasten the day when all people, including Israelis and Palestinians, move freely within their own land without fear. Amen.