December 24, 2004


by Dianne Roe

My teammate, Mary Lawrence, was preparing to go home for Christmas. Before
leaving Hebron for Jerusalem, she tried many times, in vain, to confirm her
flight. I had the same problem last year, and, only after I got to the
airport, did I discover that my flight had been cancelled. Luckily, I had
the phone number of an Israeli friend. I called her and she picked me up at
the airport and took me to her home near Tel Aviv.

So, as Mary tried and failed one more time to reach Alitalia, I gave her a
piece of paper with the name and phone number of our mutual friend. "If you
have a problem at the airport," I told her, "call Susy. She is always ready
to help."

Two thousand years ago, another woman named Mary, being great with child,
was preparing for a difficult journey. She mounted a donkey and set out to
travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. If Mary were to make that journey today,
she would face many discomforts and dangers. The Israeli army has imposed
checkpoints between villages. The donkey would have to go over large dirt
mounds. At some checkpoints such as Kalandia, north of Jerusalem, or
Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem, people wait in line for hours to get through.
Some women have given birth at checkpoints because soldiers would not let
them pass.

If I were to meet Mary today as she prepares to make the final leg of her
journey south to Bethlehem, I would give her a piece of paper with the name
and phone number of a friend who helps people when they are stuck at
checkpoints. "If you have a problem," I would say, "call Susy." Susy and
many other Israeli women are part of an organization called Machsom Watch
(Hebrew word for checkpoint). Every day women from all over Israel go to
the checkpoints to watch, and try to intervene if soldiers are mistreating

This Christmas as I sing about angels and shepherds, I will think of my
friends in Machsom Watch, who have helped me in my journey, and who help
strangers on the road.