Fast Times in Palestine

Chapter 1: From the Midwest to the Middle East

Border Prologue

“Why are are coming to Israel?”

The wide, suspicious eyes of the young Israeli border guard were a rude shock after all the laid-back hospitality in Jordan.

“I’m just a tourist,” I said, probably too nonchalantly.

“What kind of tourist?”

“Well, I’m a Christian,” I said, wishing I’d worn a cross like I’d been advised, “and I want to see the holy sites.”

“What holy sites?”

His tone suggested he’d never heard of any ‘holy sites’ in Israel.

“You know,” I said carefully, as if one of us might be slightly insane, “like Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth—”

He cut me off sharply: “Why Nazareth? What’s in Nazareth?”

It was just a random Biblical name as far as I was concerned. I didn’t know it was an Arab town in Israel, or what that meant. I also didn’t know that whether or not I got through this border would lead, among other things, to a new career, a star-crossed love, and the wrong end of a loaded gun.

But I had clearly picked the wrong answer.

“Because, I mean, that’s where Jesus was born and grew up and—”

“What? He was what?” The guard’s eyes darted nervously, as if making sure he had back-up nearby.

“He…” What have I said now? “Oh, right! Sorry, obviously he wasn’t born there—”

“Where was he born?!”

“He was born in… uh…”

Christ. I’d sung about where Jesus was born every Sunday of my Bible Belt upbringing. But I’d just finished reading a Middle East guidebook, so all my associations were shifted, everything was a jumble in my head, a border guard with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder was breathing down my neck, and I couldn’t think.

Just start at the beginning, I told my fevered mind. There was a woman on a donkey, and they went to an inn, and everybody sings O Little Town of—

“Bethlehem!” I smiled and shrugged expansively, as if it were the most basic knowledge in the universe, trying desperately to look relaxed rather than relieved.

The guard finally calmed down. I just hoped he wouldn’t figure out the connection between me and the two men behind me. If he did, we could all be in trouble.

For a brief description and outline of the rest of the book, see the About section. If you’re interested in reading further, stay tuned…

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