Learning and Teaching in Bethlehem
“I Wonder How Many Checkpoints Mary and Joseph Had to Go Through to Get to Bethlehem?”
By AP (an ESL teacher volunteer at BethBC)
I came to stay at Bethlehem Bible College as a teacher of English, to be with the people of the College and the town of Bethlehem. Being a teacher newly arrived at the College was a good way to meet people. I gradually got to know a wonderful group of students, and it was always sad to say goodbye. I appreciated their welcome and their enthusiasm to learn. I have heard teachers say they never stop learning – and I can bear witness to this.
I myself am a student of the Arabic language. I have enjoyed learning this beautiful language, and the regular meetings with my teacher. I have learned much – about teaching, this Land and its people. It is interesting how we go out to give, and end up receiving.
It has been good to get to know the BethBC community, who helped me learn. I learned how the Biblical Studies courses help to keep the light of this faith alive. I also learned about incarnational ministry from the Shepherd Society; about communicating about the Land and its people through the Media Department; and about the Church of the Nativity from the Tour Guide program. I learned about hospitality.
Life in Bethlehem is not easy; it is on the West Bank, so under military occupation – just as it was when Jesus was born. Today, the Separation Wall is a very obvious feature in Bethlehem. I wonder how many checkpoints Mary and Joseph had to go through to get to Bethlehem? Did their donkey need a permit? Despite difficulties, I find it remarkable how people persevere in enjoying life. The Palestine Marathon took place in Bethlehem in 2019, a time of enjoyment among community and visitors. At Christmas, with the lighting of the Christmas tree in Manger Square, the area is normally filled to overflowing with families coming to enjoy the occasion. This year, in the dark days of COVID-19, life is somewhat different.
God came to be among us in the person of Jesus, here in this Land. The teachings of Jesus evolved in a situation of oppression and conflict. The Sermon on the Mount is the most challenging – “But I tell you, love your enemies.” I have been deeply moved here to hear Palestinian Christians talk about what it means to love their enemy – to reach out to “the other” – to see the human – to strive to live out this command. In witnessing this, I know I am changed. I am not the same person.
God chose to begin His ‘being with us,’ in the birth of the Christ child, here in Bethlehem. What a blessing to this town! Surely such blessing must somehow remain – for all in this Land and beyond.