It's a worse trip now

By Arlene Violet
Posted 12/27/19

The pregnant woman walked alongside the donkey which carried her husband Joseph’s carpenter tools. Occasionally, she rode on the donkey while Joseph hauled the instruments and pieces of wood of …

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It's a worse trip now


The pregnant woman walked alongside the donkey which carried her husband Joseph’s carpenter tools. Occasionally, she rode on the donkey while Joseph hauled the instruments and pieces of wood of his trade, but  the animal acted as burros do; when it decided that it had enough nonsense it would simply stop. Despite being well along with child, Mary decided to walk ahead with Joseph most of the time to pretend that they were in command.

The road to Bethlehem was 80 miles or so as the crow flies but the trip took  them more than 100 miles. The couple had to traverse the Judean mountains and circle around the enclaves populated by the Samaritans who hated Jews. In the caravan of fellow travelers from Nazareth, Mary and Joseph felt relatively safe since the sheer number of fellow travelers discouraged the bandits from attacking them. After all, they would be an easy target otherwise, since they needed to bring money and supplies to make the 8 to 10 day trip on foot through the Jordan River Valley and mountainous  region, were it not for the strength in numbers. Fortunately, Mary and Joseph were happy that the baby would not be separated from them after birth since the Romans would not commit such an atrocity.

The couple was poor so other families with them were able to secure housing well before they were. While  Jews were supposed to offer hospitality to travelers by taking them into their homes overnight, the fact is that lucre encouraged the "gift" of housing since most of the homes were also owned by lower-income Jews.

Starting out in  late August from Nazareth, they at first journeyed through oppressive heat until the weather changed around September 2. As Mary and Joseph camped out, rain and wind occasionally pelted them in the 33-55 degree weather as they traveled toward Bethlehem. Fortunately, the rare event of snow didn’t make the trip more onerous.

As more travelers peeled off from the caravan along the way, the couple was  edgy. Not only was there a potential bandit problem but also lions and occasional bears roamed in the mountainous region. After finally arriving in Bethlehem, they ended up in a cave where she gave birth to her son.

The traveling wasn’t over. The family had to continue to hike to Jerusalem , another 6 miles  so the son could be circumcised. Thinking that they were ready to return home Joseph was  told in a dream to flee to Egypt, another country, if his family was to survive, since Herod the Great had issued a command that all male children two years old or less, would be put to death. Fearing for their child’s future, they immediately left for the strange new country some 40 miles away where they live in exile in a camp until Herod died the following year. The travel back home via one route was fraught with peril. Herod’s eldest surviving son, Archelaus, was a cruel tyrant. News spread that he sent an army to kill 3000 men suspected of sedition  back home. Joseph and Mary assessed whether to go to Galilee another way where another son of Herod’s, Antipas, reigned with a slightly less violent disposition than Herod. No good choices.

Sound familiar?

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.