O Little Town by Cynthia Inman Graham
December 9, 2014 § 4 Comments
The smiles from Brevity‘s Holiday Smile contest just keep coming:
The kibbutz council gave us the day off. It made sense. We were Christians and it was Christmas. We were happy to play hooky from banana fields for a day. Smiling, we threw our worn backpacks into the front of our rusty Volkswagen and headed south to Bethlehem.
Christmas 1971 in Israel was our first as a married couple. Sharing snippets of childhood memories, we waved at shepherds tending their flocks as we drove by. We met eight years before in high school and had shared each holiday since, but none was like this year. Here we were rolling through the Holy Land on Christmas Day. Pretty cool.
As we approached, spires and steeples formed the skyline of Old Jerusalem. Gold of The Dome of the Rock shone in a single ray of sun escaping from storm clouds. Snowflakes settled on the windshield. Unbelievable, snow on Christmas, in the desert! My husband maneuvered the car through streets following the perimeter of the walled city. Nuns, Hassidic rabbis in fur-rimmed hats, veiled women and men robed in costumes out of the yearly church nativity play moved together and disappeared through ancient gates into the city.
We drove slightly down hill, Bethlehem straight ahead. Small flakes drifted, not the fully formed individuals of New Jersey, but tiny newborn crystals, floating. Fatima’s Gift Shop flashed, neon green, on our right as we passed the Welcome to Bethlehem sign, in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. We parked across from The Church of the Nativity. I breathed a happy sigh when we read the church was opened and admission free. Down candlelit steps, deep into the earth, to the manger. Sacred, holy. In the manger a doll, plastic, wrapped in swaddling clothes. We stood, befuddled, smiling, arms around each other, on Christmas Day.
Cynthia Inman Graham grew up between Barnegat Bay and the Pine Barrens. In 1971 she married her husband, Don, and left the US, spent fourteen years working abroad including seven months on an Israeli kibbutz. She recently retired from teaching English as a Second Language back in her native NJ. Her writing has been published in The Sandpaper, FATE, the Stockton Stockpot, and americanturban.com. Graham received Stockton’s Mimi Schwartz Award for Creative Nonfiction in 2012.
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