Bethlehem, December 25, 2000 Years Ago--It's been a quiet day in our little town. Local police reported no suspicious activity in the last 24 hours.
The Greater Hebron Chamber of Commerce said yesterday that they project a 50% increase in tourism next year as a result of the decree by Caesar Augustus. Since Bethlehem is only five miles south of Jerusalem, we can expect a steady stream of travelers. Abraham ben Sirach, manager of the Bethlehem Visitors Bureau, announced that the annual Judean Shepherds Convention will return to town for the fourth straight year.
Meanwhile area tradesmen report a booming business. The local inns are booked solid for the next few nights. If you do not have a reservation before coming to Bethlehem, forget it. You'll be sleeping under the stars. Jacob Samuelson, proprietor of the Bethlehem Inn, reported that all his rooms were reserved six months ago by a fig-traders caravan from Beersheba.
The local Rabbis council met yesterday to discuss the appearance in Jerusalem of three visitors from Persia. Reportedly, they told King Herod that they were seeking someone born "King of the Jews." When the scribes told the king that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, he appointed his top aide for Jewish affairs, Michael Rosenberg, to investigate the matter.
No one seems to know where the three visitors came from or why they made the trip. One of the foreigners referred to a certain "star in the east" that led them across the desert. Soon after their interview with King Herod, the three mysterious visitors disappeared. Some say they came to Bethlehem, but that seems unlikely given the shortage of rooms. Probably they decided to vacation in Jericho for a few days before returning to Persia.
In an apparently unrelated event, several amateur star gazers reported a bright light just after sundown. It suddenly appeared on the horizon and seemed to be moving south from Jerusalem. Rabbi Hezekiah Amot dismissed any possible connection with the "star in the east," saying, "If the Messiah were about to be born, I'd know all about it, and I haven't heard a thing."
Finally, we should report that a baby was born early this morning. A young couple from Nazareth arrived in Bethlehem late yesterday to enroll in the census. The man, a carpenter named Joseph Jacobson, brought his pregnant wife to the Bethlehem Inn at about 6:30 p.m. Since the caravan from Beersheba had taken all the rooms, they were offered space in the stable area behind the inn. Mr. Zvi Rivai, police officer and local history buff, helped them clear a spot amid the cattle and the donkeys.
The expectant mother gave birth to her son sometime around 1 AM. Her husband assisted in the delivery and then helped her wrap the child in strips of cloth. The father and mother told our reporter that they will call their son Jesus. They plan to stay in town for a few more days before traveling briefly to Egypt and then back to Nazareth.