To wake to the sound of church bells and the distant crump of mortars landing in Beersheba. To see the early morning sky light up as Israeli helicopter gunships unleash their missiles. To smell the teargas and hear the festive roar of traffic on roads built exclusively for Jewish settlers. To watch construction workers go about their merry way as they build the wall ever-deeper into Palestinian territory. To gaze in awe at the bright star above … hang on, that’s not a star, it’s a military flare.
Fifty years ago you couldn’t throw a stone in Bethlehem without hitting a Christian. Today they constitute less than 15% of the population. Christians have been sidling out of the city ever since their leader was strung up on a stick, but the exodus has picked up in recent times. Understandably so. It can’t be much fun being picked on by both the Arabs and the Jews. One can only turn one’s cheek so many times before packing for Canada where Islamic jihad and cavity searches are frowned upon and your neighbours don’t steal your land the moment you pop out for a spot of the old body and blood of Christ of a Sunday evening.
Christmas itself is a bewildering affair. While the Israeli security forces herd people around like goats, the Catholics and Protestants party down much like we are doing today but probably with fewer incidents of drunken domestic violence. Then the Greek, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Christians break out the baubles on January 6. As if that’s not mad enough, the Armenian Orthodox Christians cut loose on January 19. God only knows what they get up to. Something involving nude wrestling and coma-inducing folk dancing, I imagine.
All I know is that you don’t want to arrive in Manger Square looking for a bed at this time of year. You can also forget about getting the Bethlehem Municipal Council to do anything. That bomb crater outside your house? Best you fix it yourself. And don’t even think about going for a Sunday afternoon drive. By the time you have your permits and talked your way through the Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints it will be Easter and you will have to turn around and come back.
Christmas just isn’t the same without Father Christmas and it’s a shame that the cheerful old pederast can’t put in an appearance in the Holy Land. If a strange man in an ill-fitting red suit and long white beard tried moving around the West Bank at night with a sack full of parcels, an Israeli soldier would shoot him in the head. No doubt about it.
Christians would have us believe that Jesus, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, could return to Earth at any time. Fair enough. I believe that we evolved from sea monkeys. So who is bonkers – me or the Christians? It’s a tough call.
If Jesus hasn’t cut his hair and got a proper job by now, there is a good chance that this is the year his father kicks him out of the house. “Aw, c’mon Dad,” he might say. “Not Bethlehem again. Conditions are worse than ever. And it’s full of pushy tourists.”
“Fine,” God might say. “Fish Hoek it is, then.” God, if you’re listening, which I know you’re not, let me just say that the Deep South is hardly the best of places to deliver your embattled son unto us once more. For a start, this verdant valley is already infested with child-bearing “virgins” loudly insisting that the holy spirit had come over them. This is usually followed by the cries of angry fathers: “You lying little slut! What’s his name?”
Christmas is absolutely the worst time of year for the Second Coming. Parking is a nightmare and every room at every inn has someone from Joburg in it. And you can forget about sleeping in a stable. The DA council is bound to have a by-law preventing that sort of thing, especially if donkeys are involved. Perhaps check for cancellations on www.lastminutemessiah.com.
You would also be hard-pressed to find three wise men in Fish Hoek, let alone three kings. Your best bet would be three cross-dressing queens from Ocean View. Camels, oddly enough, aren’t a problem. The trannies need only nip across the road to Imhoff’s Gift farm where several ships of the desert are inexplicably moored.
In these harsh economic times, gold, frankincense and myrrh are in short supply but I’m sure our surrogate Magi will be able to scrounge up a few interesting gifts. A snoek, a bag of crystal meth and a papsak of wine should do nicely.
It might also be a good idea to revise the ten commandments. We don’t have anything as impressive as Mount Sinai, but you could slip a couple of bucks to the shark spotter on Boyes Drive to play the part of Moses. In fact, there’s a good chance his name really is Moses. When you mention tablets, he will think you are talking about Mandrax. If you have any, give them to him. And if you want anyone to take the new rules seriously, they are going to have to be written on the iPad 2. In Apple We Trust.
So sayeth the Gospel of Ben.