(Levit has just returned...)
Yousef: So Levit, that couple, I expect that you sent them off with your usual flair?
Levit: Well, she was a bit more pregnant than I thought she would be...
Yousef: But, no problem for you, 'No room... Read my lips... Right?'
Levit: There are times, Yousef, when I am appalled at your lack of compassion. You can't just treat people like animals. You don't just chase them off into the wilderness. (Yousef gives an incredulous look at the others.)
Yousef: Very impressive sermon, Rabbi, so you offered them the use of your bed for the night?
Levit: (Sheepishly) I’m… letting stay in the stable for the night.
Yousef: The stable?? You put a pregnant woman in the barn with a bunch of horses and camel dung? Talk about compassion? What benevolence and self sacrifice!
Levit: I know that it probably wasn't too suitable for a woman in her condition. But they were quite insistent that it was fine. And they actually seemed grateful. Tomorrow we'll find them a decent place to stay. It's just for one night. It'll be fine... Just close the gate for the night Yousef! (Yousef exits) Gentlemen! It’s time to call it a night!
Elias: Top me up, Levit, it's a long dark road ahead.
Yonas: The Scriptures say: Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine.
Elias: It also says: He that is void of wisdom despises his neighbour: but a man of understanding holds his peace.
Yousef: Levit, you'd better come out here!
Levit: Come out? What for?
Yousef: There's a mob out there! Bedouins down from the hills!
Levit: Bedouins? What are they doing here?
Yonas: They don't usually come into town at night! Watch out! They'll rob you blind! (To Levit) Better get rid of them!
Levit: What do they want?
Yousef: I can't figure out what they’re saying… I think they're looking for somebody.
Elias: Who can understand them? They talk so strange!
Levit: Find out what they want, Yousef, but keep an eye on them.
Yousef: They're heading over to the stable...
Levit: The stable... That woman is in there! (Everyone suddenly concerned.) Look after the bar Yousef! (Levit rushes out to check.) (To the others) You guys stay here...
Elias: Yousef, how about one more little splash, we'll call it a nightcap... (Yousef moves over with the pitcher)
Yonas: He's had enough, Yousef... (Yousef pauses...)
Elias: Why don't you try minding your own business? That's the trouble with you, you're always trying to make everybody else live like you do. Walking around all the time, chasing your own outstretched finger!
Yonas: At least I can walk.
Elias: What's wrong with 'Live and let live'? (burp) But that's not good enough for you. You won't be satisfied until everybody else in the world is miserable, like you.
Yonas: Talk about miserable? You wait and see how you feel tomorrow morning!
Yousef: Come on you two! Knock it off! Levit is outside trying to deal with a mob, and you guys are fighting about tomorrow's hangover...
Elias: Nah, Levit will be all right. He knows how to take care of himself.
Yonas: That's easy for you to say! With that rabble out there? By now they might have beat him up and robbed him.
Elias: (exasperated) Oh come off it. Those people are hairless... ah.. harmless.
Yonas: You just can't trust them! Yousef, I suggest you go and check on Levit.
Yousef: Look, I'm sorry, but I can't leave the bar.
Elias: Don't worry, Yousef, no problem. I'll go out and check.(He begins to get up)
Yonas: You? (Pushes him back) You'd probably trip over the threshold. A man in your condition should not be sent out on such a job. Better I should go.
Elias: (applauding) Right! Go ahead! Save the city of Bethlehem from the bloodthirsty marauding shepherds from the Judean hills. Yousef, why don't you bring that pitcher over here and pour me a little splash?
(Elias is sitting in the pub. Yousef is cleaning up the bar, wiping out some goblets. Levit and Yonas enter, slowly, deliberately. Yonas sits down in his seat. Yousef greets)
Yousef: Finally! You're back! You guys were gone a long time, what happened to you?
(Levit wanders into the bar, picks up a cup, pours some beverage into it and detachedly stares into it.)
Elias: Well? Tell us. What was going on out there!
Yousef: Did you figure out what they were looking for?
Yonas: Believe it or not, they were looking for a baby.
Yousef: A baby? A whole mob of Bedouins come storming down from the hills into our yard, looking for a baby?
Elias: Is that true, Levit? You're having a baby? (Levit nods)
Yousef: A baby? Hold it a minute... Has that woman out there had...? (Silence...)
Levit: (Pensively, shaking his head) Yes, Yousef, she had her baby.
Elias: (to Yonas) So what was so strange about a woman having a baby?
Yousef: I've never seen a baby being born before. What was it like?
Yonas: You know Levit, she must have already been in labour when you sent them out to the barn.
Elias: What's going on? Why are you guys acting so strange?
Levit: (Shakes head in amazement.) She knew what was happening... And she didn't say a thing.
Elias: What is this, some kind of riddle? What is this with the shepherds and the baby?
Yousef: Yah, how did they even know there was a baby? Here we are, 50 yards away and we didn't even know about it. So what were the shepherds doing here?
Levit: Apparently the Bedouin had seen some kind of vision, of angels singing and telling them to go into town and find a baby in a barn. Something like that.
Yonas: So they said.
Levit: Well, so they believed. Whatever it was, something happened to them. Who knows? Anyways, they came into town...
Yonas: Right! And when we came in, they were all huddled around the feeding trough like they were in some kind of trance! Like zombies. I've never seen anything like it.
Levit: They weren't in a trance, Yonas. They were just gathered around the baby! They just seemed overwhelmed, kind of in AWE...
Yousef: You look like YOU'RE in awe right now. Did you guys see a vision too?
Yonas: Not me! Maybe Levit did...
Yousef: Did you Levit?
Levit: No. I... I just saw people who were obviously experiencing something... I don't know what was happening in that room, but it seemed to be something very special, almost sacred.
Yonas: Sacred?? Get a grip on yourself Levit! They were a bunch of foreigners kneeling down around a BABY!
Yousef: Kneeling down? Why were they doing that?
Yonas: Who knows Yousef? They're all pagans!
Levit: I'm not sure. ...they kept talking about angels: 'The angel said to come here.. and the angel said this and that... ...the angels were singing...
Yonas: Those kinds of people are always imagining things. They're ignorant and illiterate! What would they know about angels?
Elias: So what do you know about angels? If angels only visit perfect people, why did they visit Lot in Sodom?
Yousef: It's amazing that the parents would allow people to do that!
Yonas: My point exactly! What parents would allow such a blasphemous thing to continue? This whole thing is wrong, totally wrong! It should have been stopped! What kind of father permits this? And you, Levit, what did you do?
Levit: Hey, I offered to clear them all out of there, but the father said that it was all right. In fact, it seemed to me that , well... they had sort of expected it.
Elias: That's very strange! So he didn't seem to mind to have a room full of strange people?
Levit: It was really quite astonishing! All these poor, illiterate peasants... But so joyful, their eyes full of tears, smiling and singing.
Yousef: So why were they so happy?
Levit: I don't know for sure, Yousef. Maybe they saw this baby as, (he hesitates) ...a special baby...
Yousef: You mean like....
Yonas: Oho, now it's 'a special kind of baby...' Stop this foolishness, Levit! It's one thing to criticize leaders, but starting to believe this... this is blasphemy!
Levit: Get off your high horse, Yonas! I'm not 'believing' anything!
Yonas: Look, you can say whatever you want. It's your business! I don't know what's happening out there, but if it was my place, I would kick the whole bunch of them out.
Yousef: Why are you letting them stay out there, Levit?
Levit: (Levit is silent for a moment) When I was a little boy, my mother used to take me up to Jerusalem every year, to the Temple. And I remember seeing the High Priest, all dressed up in his robes, with all those sparkling jewels, that beautiful turban on his head. I was completely captivated! I remember asking my mother: 'Mama, when Messiah comes, will he be dressed up like that, Mama, like the High Priest?' One time I remember trying to get close to him, squeezing through the crowd, just to touch his robes, to look into that face. But one of the guards saw me and started shouting at me and chased me away. I will never forget the feeling of shock and disappointment. I sat at the Temple gate and cried and cried... And while I was sitting there crying, the guards came and chased some other people away from the gates. They were all dirty and covered with rags and a guard was beating them with a stick, like dogs. When I asked my mother about it later, she said that they were lepers and were not allowed to be in the Temple. And then I thought, When Messiah comes, will he chase people away?
Yonas: They were only doing their job, Levit. The Law is very strict! No unclean things in the Temple.
Levit: They're not things, Yonas, they're people. Besides, where were they supposed to worship? Or... Do you think that God didn't want them to worship?
Yonas: Of course He does. But the Scriptures say they must be cleansed first.
Levit: That's what Mama said too. Anyway, the next morning I stood up and announced: Mama, when Messiah comes, he won't chase lepers away, he will do like Elisha the Prophet, He will cleanse them.
Yousef: Is that when you stopped going to Temple, Levit?
Levit: (With a soft laugh) No, I was only 8 or 9, I was just a little boy? But you know, I never did look at the High Priest in the same way again... But when I saw those Bedouins tonight, all tattered and dirty, scurrying out of my way, like dogs who know too well what it's like to be beaten. Then it all came back to me, those lepers at the Temple, and the guards. I remembered the fear, the whack of that stick, the shouting, the shame and pain in their eyes.. But, tonight, when I was out in the stable. When I saw the joy on those faces and listened to the singing, I realized: These people too have longed and looked for something. And maybe they found it...
Yousef: ...and no one chases them away.
Levit: Yes, Yousef, no one chases them away.
Copyright Johannes Kelder, all rights reserved.
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