THE road from Nazareth to Bethlehem begins by dropping down from a ridge south of Galilee into the Jezreel Valley, looking out across Jordan and Samaria.It is a 90-mile route defined by the journey of Mary and Joseph 2,000 years ago. Any direct route that foot passengers would have taken in the era of Caesar Augustus, retraced today, inevitably draws you into the tangled skein of modern Middle East politics, through Israel and the occupied West Bank, past Hamas strongholds and extremist Jewish settlements lying Islamic cheek by Zionist jowl. But first you slam into a checkpoint. The first, that is, of 15 Israeli military roadblocks and mobile checkpoints that now control passage along the roads south from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Here politics and religion collide once more, with Palestinians emitting howls of outrage at the 30ft-high Israeli wall that was completed just before Christmas.
‘Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus to register all the empire for taxes. This was the first registration, taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David’
Luke ii, 1-15