Hotel Ararat,153, Beit Sahour Road, Bethlehem. Palestine
It was an unforgettable, blessed day in Holy Land.
I reached back in my room about 7.30 PM. It was an exhilarating, and also a tight scheduled day, visited many places than other days. After the dinner, I sat there in the lobby, connected with my best, dude. She asked me about my Christmas. “I don’t feel anything different than other days”, I said. I know I’m in the Christmas-eve, but I felt nothing. I really had only one feeling, “alone among the crowd”. She told me, “You will see, I say this Christmas will be “unforgettable one” for you”.
I just laughed, and walked to the main door of the Hotel, opening to the chilling other than beautiful illuminated Christmas night. I lit a cigarette, stood there outside the door, looking into the street. It was reinforced by Palestinian guards, since the presidential visit of Nativity Church, tonight. About a ten foot away from me, a patrol vehicle was parked and fortified soldiers talking in their traditional language.
Small groups of tenants are walking hurriedly to the Nativity church to celebrate their Christmas Eve. In the other end of the street, after the small round about, Joseph- a Palestinian Christian- was standing in front of his shop. Suddenly I heard a group of pilgrims coming from the hotel to go to the church, and somebody asked me to join with them.
I went back to my room thinking of go to church, changed dress and came out. I walked hurriedly, alone through the extremely ascending road. Palestinian army patrol vehicles were moving impulsively to both directions of the street. Climate was freezing and blustery and I feltthat my jacket and muffler was not sufficient.
Suddenly a black suburban passed hurriedly piloted and escorted by a fleet of army vehicles, the famous Palestine PresidentMahmoud Abbas.
I was achieving way to the church. Crowd started to increase while reaching to the church. Finally I reached near to the army check point in the Manger Square. Nativity church was circled by Palestinian army.I remembered that what the guide told me, “You can reach up to the army check point. You can’t go inside the church”. Because according to the tradition, the holy mass of December 24, the Christmas Eve mass, leading by the Jerusalem Latin Patriarchies, and the believers register and get their entry pass months before to attend the mass, and thePalestine PresidentMahmoud Abbas also attending the mass. So, nobody can enter the church without entry pass, especially because of the security reasons.
I stood near the check post, and asked to a soldier that there is any chance to get a pass or enter to the church. He looked at me lightheartedly and replied, no way. I could see a display of cctv screen from far, but not much clear. My only wish was attend the holy mass, but I realized the situation and quiet my wish. But still I am just standing there. Weather is getting colder; I kept my hands inside the jacket, but still freezing. Crowd is increasing. Believers asking, begging, slightly shouting but force were rigid and unkind.
After a while, somebody asked me, “Are you Christian?” I said, “Yes”. I looked at him, a tall, thin man, with imprecisely cared hair and beard, and asked me again, “do you wish to go to church?” I said, “yes, but I don’t have the entry pass”. Then, he endowed with a gate pass and said, “Go and pray, and wish you a Merry Christmas.”
I really stunned, and didn’t get any words for a while. I felt my tongue dropped down. Anyhow, I managed to tell him thanks, and I asked his name too, before he disappeared in the crowd.
Afterward, I hadn’t even a moment to stay in the cold breezy weather for naught. I showed my entry pass to the guard. He shockingly looked at me and smiled.
…at the moment, I am attending the Christmas Eve holy service in the basilica of Nativity (St. Catherine Cathedral) as an invited guest, by child Jesus Christ. More than a hundred priests were there to lead the Holy Mass with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal. All the believers were from several parts of the world as well as Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas.
Now, Mr. Stephen, (The man who given the pass) I am using this occasion to thanking you again from the bottom of my heart, for making my Christmas Eve as an unforgettable event. It is really etched in my heart. And I am dedicating this words to my strange and wonderful friend Mr. Stephen, from Italy.
Christmas eveof24Dec, 2013.