This Christmas I put down the Chinese food and classic movie, and instead journeyed to Nazareth alongside my Christian friend.
I accepted her invitation to accompany her to Nazareth, and a half-hour later found myself beginning the long trek from Herzliya.
As a friend the answer to escort her was clear to me. I would not want my best friend going all the way across the country, to celebrate one of her religion’s most important days alone.
As a Jew, however, I was a little anxious. I was so used to being in the majority while in Israel, that I was not sure how I would react, or how others would react to me being a minority.
While we gazed across the glittering Mediterranean during the train ride to Haifa, I expressed my concerns with her. “Have I ever told you about my epiphany in the jungle?” she asked.
Naturally I started laughing, “Oh god here we go again with your hippy nonsense.”
“No really, when I was in the jungle I went in with an open heart. I wasn’t going in to hunt the animals, or cut down the trees, and therefore no harm could come to me. You have to go in with an open heart and mind and nothing bad can come to you.”
I pondered on this for the remainder of the train ride and into the evening in Nazareth.
As we walked around Nazareth I smiled to women wearing hijabs, who were carrying children with Santa balloons. Random people came up to us, with big grins on their face to wish us a Merry Christmas. There was a feeling of pure jubilee and joy.
Although bad things do happen even when one has an open heart and mind, I did learn that there is some validity to my friend’s life philosophy. It made me more open minded and ready to more comfortably attend the celebration.
At the end of the day, despite being Christian, Muslim, Jewish or any other religion, we all want some of the basic things. To be happy and to have security and peace (and yes, there are radicals in all these religions who are exceptions, but I am not speaking of them).
We are all fundamentally the same, and it took a long trek to Nazareth, one of the friendliest places I have ever been in Israel, to realize that. It truly was a merry Christmas.