By Geoffrey Paul
January 5, 2010
The end of December is not the time for a Jew to go in search of church architecture (some would day it is never the time), but, having heard much of Sherbourne Abbey's fan vaulted roof - a really splendid creation of man - and being nearby, I dropped in to have a look. But, in the end, it was not the vaulting which engaged me, but something much closer to the ground: a nativity sccene such as can be seen in many venues at this time of the year. But this one was different. Down the centre was a stark, wooden divider. But let the accompanying church notice explain:
"The walled nativity set, made by Palestinian wood-workers in the town where Jesus was born, is a reminder of the 230-mile, six-metre high wall topped with barbed wire and lined with guard towers, that encircles Palestinian land, including Bethlehem. It demonstrates that this Christmas the shepherds and the Wise Men would not have made it to the stable.
O sad and troubled Bethlehem
We hear your longing cry
For peace and justice to be born
And cruel oppression die."
The author of this verse is Wendy Ross-Barker a long-time pro-Palestinian campaigner within church circles who pops up frequently at services, carol concerts and travelling exhibitions designed to portray the iniquities of Israel without any context.
All that was missing from the bizarre notice accompanying Sherbourne's manger was an invocation of "Peace on earth and good will to all suicide bombers...." But, then, we mustn't mention that, must we, at this time of year?