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Covered by snow

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 10.01.2015:

Jan 10, 2015

Toine van Teeffelen

The electricity does not work because of the heavy weather. Mary and I make a refreshing walk to the electricity company since our telephone calls are left unanswered. There is an electricity cut in the Middle East Building, hundred meters from our house. The owner is abroad and the son who is in the possession of the keys absent. “Does it take three hours, to find the keys?” asks Mary.

We continue walking to Jacir Palace, the former Intercontinental. We sit almost alone in the huge hall surrounded by old Bethlehem architecture, on a bank with two heaters next to us and a sahlab [sweet white thick milk] in front. Enjoying Christmas schlagers and the Ave Maria, we see through the windows that it starts snowing.

Covered by an umbrella we walk in the slowly enfolding Christmas landscape. Mary says that she read on the BBC site that from all places in the world it is only in Bethlehem that you can celebrate three Christmasses. In the evening we watch the film Snow White, with the heroine surviving realistically depicted fights.

In the night it snows well. Next morning there are no cars on the streets, no loud honking, only shouts of children. A quiet Bethlehem covered in white. Together with our friend and Mary’s sister we all go out for a walk. It is so beautiful because all ugly things are covered, says our friend. When we enter Star Street Mary points out the square where a few days ago demonstrators from all denominations shouted at the Greek-Orthodox patriarch that he is not welcome in Bethlehem. (The Patriarch sold, or confirmed the selling of, church-owned lands in occupied East-Jerusalem to Israeli buyers).

We walk to Nativity Square to eat the most delicious falafel, hummus, ful [beans] and musahaba [kind of warm vegetable puree]. “You have to eat the falafel when it is at its hottest,” says our friend. The snow makes for unusual images. In the church courtyard the skull under the foot of St Jerome (the sculpture) is covered by a nice white cap. Everybody is uplifted, inspired by the pure virgin white around us. A police man tells us that Beit Jala has much more snow than Bethlehem. I remember the story of the boys of Beit Sahour, located at a lower level and with little snow, running upwards to Beit Jala to throw snowballs at the girls there. “Beit Jala, here we come!”

On the way back the narrow Madbasseh street is closed by a kind of checkpoint where we cannot continue. The passers by are warned that they will be hit by snowballs thrown from the adjacent roofs. We take a detour and look at the many beautifully renovated houses in the nearby courtyards. Here Bethlehem is like a painting sold at Montparnasse. You can hide yourself in the little alleys and staircases and throw snowballs, then lean back so that the receiving party is unaware where the snowballs come from. Jara, Tamer and I do a quick snowball fight. Further down Mary warns a few kids that they should not throw stones covered by snow – white-coated stones. “It is no Intifada.”

At home everything works, the water runs, the electricity comes, even the Internet is back, momentarily. I bring Arabic coffee on a plate. “Today you are a sweetheart,” says Mary.

“A perfect day,” as the song of Lou Reed runs. So perfect, “I thought I was someone else, someone good.”

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