|PETRAS ESSAYS IN ENGLISH|
December 1, 2003
His grandfather was an immigrant from Palestine. His father was a merchant of precious stones in Baghdad. He was once an Olympian weight lifter. The people in his city called him "the King".
One night he received a message from abroad that "a child will be born and he will be the Savior of his people from the Seven Plagues: foreign occupation, hunger, disease, dictators, the 'Chosen People', puppet rulers and unemployment. And he was to follow a brilliant star to welcome the birth of the Savior.
To travel across Babylonia was dangerous, because of the foreign occupation. He would have to disguise himself by wearing the clothes of a collaborator. But where to get a uniform? A policeman was throttled in the neighborhood and stripped. The uniform would only take him to the center of the city where the soldiers of the occupation might stop him. So he joined the 'Puppet Party' and received a certificate of safe conduct. To reach the frontier he was embedded with the soldiers of the occupation. He witnessed the shooting of a 9 year old boy, the abuse of a young girl, the stripping of a mother in front of her son and the violation of her daughter.
One night, he was stopped by a solitary soldier who cursed his people. He quietly strangled the soldier. It made no difference: whites or blacks, Spaniards or Poles - they were all the same in conquest and pillage.
In the night, the star beckoned him. He crossed into Syria. On the way to Damascus, strangers invited him to share bread and goat meat with volunteers traveling to his country to join the resistance.
At the Israelite border, dressed as a Hebraic merchant, he claimed he was fleeing Arab/Muslim terrorist oppression. As he entered the Promised Land, there was a pharaonic wall guarded by guns with soldiers attached.
He traveled south on a new highway and off in the distance he saw the ruins of homes, and piles of trunks and branches of olive, lemon, orange trees - from fruit to firewood.
It is night, the eve of December 24 and very cold. He is still dressed in the suit of a Hebrew jewel merchant.
The King is sure that his every step is under observation, but he trusts the Holy Spirit and his wits.
"He is neither a Hebrew nor a merchant but he does carry jewels and incense and he is built like a circus strongman," reported the Jewish military official at the frontier to his superior in Tel Aviv.
"Let him through. He will lead us to the nest of vipers and we will kill them all," the commander ordered.
The next morning the King made his way along the highway where on one side there were lush green lawns, swimming pools and tennis courts and fields of ripe tomatoes tended by migrant labor from impoverished countries and on the other side were barren fields, dusty roads, dried wells and a few shepherds tending goats on the hills among scarce vegetation.
He entered the city of Jerusalem. From the bus terminal he walked the narrow streets and entered a store to buy a black velvet skullcap to match his beard and suit. He found a taxi driver to take him to Bethlehem. The streets were jammed with cars and shoppers, the cafes and pizza parlors were full of young people listening to loud music, while holy men in black hats elbowed their way through the crowd.
As he passed through the city streets he saw the painted faces of Polish, Ukrainian and Russian blondes lolling in the doorways in short tight dresses. He saw Filipino domestics carrying bags of groceries after their 'Madams' in smart coats and leather boots.
He knew that he did not travel unaccompanied.
A long line of Palestinians stood in the midnight cold before the checkpoint on the outskirts of Bethlehem: workers, families and off to the side a group of men and women half naked, undergoing interrogation and body searches. The King made no sign of concern but he recognized every act, every humiliation: occupiers are the same in Babylon and in Palestine. His papers were scanned and the King was waved on while the others remained behind, full of surprise, suspicion and anger.
One old Arab muttered, "The Jews only look after the Jew."
The King did not smile.
The streets of Bethlehem were silent and the sky was covered with clouds. He walked on past the plaza and the site were one day there would be a famous church. He looked up and the star appeared through a break in the clouds. In front was a small building with a sign in Arabic, "Hospital of Bethlehem".
As he entered the clock struck midnight. The staff was startled to see this swarthy, bearded, muscular man in a skullcap.
"A settler," yelled the receptionist. "What do you want?" she asked.
The King replied, "I have come to visit the Savior. I bear gifts of incense and jewels."
The receptionist pointed to his skullcap and the King removed it. "What is the name of your Savior?" she asked.
As the King spoke of Mary and Joseph of Nazareth and their newborn Jesus there entered two other strangers who also asked to see the Savior. The Three Kings embraced and greeted each other.
As the Three Kings were led down the dimly lit corridor they heard the cries of the newborn and smelled the chemical and urine smells of the hospital.
They barely fit in the tiny room where Mary was nursing Jesus and Joseph, the old carpenter, watched, holding his cap, full of pride and joy.
The Three Kings bowed their heads and praised the infant Savior and opened their satchels and the air was full of sweet incense and the room glowed from the precious stones. The baby Jesus smiled.
At that joyful moment there came the sound of crashing doors, smashing windows the screams of patients, doctors and nurses. The sound of heavy boots, gunshots, and orders shouted in Hebrew shattered the air.
The Three Kings closed ranks to shield the mother and infant Savior from the violence around them. The Israelite soldiers pointed their guns at the Three Kings but they did not move. The officer threatened to shoot.
Then the voice of the King of Babylon spoke in broken Hebrew. "We will go with you but the Savior must stay with his mother."
The officer barked orders to his soldiers as the Three Kings began to leave the room. The officer pulled the blanket covering Mary, exposing her naked breasts and belly and the baby Jesus began to cry.
The Israelite officer bellowed in pain as the King of Babylon gripped his arm and pulled him close, "When the children of the Savior stop crying and the occupied lands are free, you too will stop shouting orders for you will have to replant the olive trees and cultivate your own fields and share the land and water with the original people, Palestinian Arabs, lest you forget.
"And the whores and prostitutes you have brought here shall return to their homes and families, and the Filipinos will care for their own children and shop in their own markets, and you will recognize you are not a 'Chosen People' but only equal to the rest of humanity. So be it." The King turned and joined the other Kings.
The Israelites proclaimed the capture of three foreign terrorists. The President of the Bushites, patrons and protectors of the Israelites, congratulated them. The media disseminated the news of their capture to the world.
And they were tortured for 40 days and nights. And it was said that the Israelites and the Bushites in Babylonia worked together. The Israelites shared information but not the precious stones. The King of Babylon refused to speak until on his last breath he raised himself and from his broken lips, under his cavernous eyes, he defied the Israelite torturers and their Bushite disciples: "Ye shall occupy our country and kill the innocent, but you will never conquer our people. You will be driven from our lands and our plagues will follow you to the end of the earth."
The King of Babylon died. And that night tremendous explosions were heard from Babylon to Palestine. And there were no reports coming from the High Command because, it was said, they too suffered greatly.