Let's look at the setting for the most famous Christian story of all.....The Nativity
Maps and historical accounts vary between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.
"As of 14 September 2015, 136 (70.5%) of the 193 member states of the United Nations and two non-member states have recognized the State of Palestine." Wikipedia
We hear about the "West Bank" and the "Gaza Strip" regularly in the news. You will also recognise the cities of Nazareth and Jerusalem from the story of the Nativity. Bethlehem is a smaller town and is not listed on this map. Read further to find out where it is located.
We will try to understand a bit more about these countries by visiting the towns of the Christmas story.
- Jesus grew up in Nazareth.
- It is situated in the Galilean hills overlooking the Jezreel valley.
- Its Jewish community was almost wiped out by the Romans during the Jewish revolt.
- Later with the strengthening of the Roman Empire, the number of Christians grew.
- From the fourth century, churches were built on the sites which were connected with Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
This is the 5th church built on the spot where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. The current church was completed in 1969. There are intricate designs on the doors and throughout the church. Outside there are murals representing many countries including Ireland.
- Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
- His mother and father had to travel there to comply with the census that Caesar Augustus' the Emperor of Rome had ordered.
- There was no room for the family in any inn and we are told that Jesus was born in a stable.
We had to use an Arab taxi from Jerusalem to get past border control.
The Basilica of the Nativity was built over Jesus' birthplace.
The Church is shared between the Armenians, the Greek Orthodox and the Latins.
You enter the church through a tiny door and come into a vast hall. You then have to queue up to go down narrow tiny stairs to the spot of Jesus' birth. Everyone gets a chance to touch the blessed piece of earth. You put your hand through a metal star to touch the clay.
Put very very very simply, my understanding of the conflict is this.....
The Palestinians are the Arabs who have lived and worked on the lands for centuries.
The Israelis are the Jewish people who were persecuted down through the years, most horrifically in WW2. After the Holocaust many of the remaining Jews wanted to leave Europe and return to Israel as they believe it to be the home of the Jewish civilisation.
From my understanding, this is the conflict. The Arabs living on the land and the Jewish people relocating. Two religions, two different ways of living, both feel they have entitlements to the country. Both have sacred sites in the country and both have their own stories. It is a difficult situation and as in every war, the innocent civilians suffer the most. I hope that some day there will be peace is this very special country.