By NORMAN M. COVERT
(Exclusive to The Covert Letter)
Bethlehem Ephrata, Judea, Dec. 25. – Events in the volatile Middle East took a dramatic turn yesterday. Thousands were near panic, demanding the government provide assurance they were in no danger from a spectacular comet. It appeared to hover above this West Bank town, southwest of Jerusalem.
The event muted recent turmoil in Egypt, Libya and Syria, where the comet also was visible.
Media attention also focused on a stable at a two-star hotel near midtown. A child born there last night has become an immediate sensation.
The child, born to newly arrived travelers, has attracted throngs as well as skeptical reports from the Hebrew leadership, who reject a notion that the child fulfils early prophecy.
Reports from Herod the Great’s palace indicate he is fearful that the predictions of the Prophet Micah are about to become reality. Hebrew scripture quotes Micah as saying a child will be born and “go forth from Me (Jehovah) to be ruler of Israel.”
Herod is said to have summoned key members of a Persian caravan, who arrived in the area recently, to use their influence to determine where this child was to be born. Herod’s press secretary, however, would not confirm the meeting.
Pundits say circumstances of the child’s birth coincide with Holy Writ. Such a Messiah would threaten Herod’s already shaky leadership and influence among the Jewish community. He was designated King of the Jews by Caesar, but has quarreled with the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.
The city has been intrigued by arrival of the large caravan from settlements on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers near Baghdad, Iraq. Their astrologers had predicted appearance of the star and embarked on the pilgrimage several weeks ago to find it, we are told.
“Usually such a phenomenon in the heavens is an omen,” said one astronomer. “It is either a comet or the rare convergence of the planets Venus and Saturn.”
Three members of the contingent arrived at the hotel, saying they were stunned when the star appeared as a beacon on their route of travel.
A report from an Oriental astronomer said the star was visible in the entire hemisphere. He called it a comet, a “sui-hsing,” a star with a sweeping tail seen in the celestial Capricorn region.
The child, born to parents with roots here, has captured the attention of the predominantly Hebrew community, some of which have ascribed the boy as having a “God-like” aura. Crowds continue to swell outside the hotel’s adjoining stable, bringing presents and food, scrambling for a look at the child and his parents.
Reporters interviewed a group of shepherds, who arrived overnight and were permitted to meet the parents and see the child.
“We are thrilled to be here,” said one, “and surprised that we found ourselves smitten by the child.
“Everything we heard in our pasture seems true,” he continued. “We had settled the flock for the night when a flash of light appeared.”
The teenage shepherd identified the apparition as “glowing.”
“He kept telling us not to be afraid, but that wasn’t easy. I had heard about Angels at Synagogue…I’ve never seen anything to equal it.
“He told us to come here – we could see the star – and said the child came from God and would save the world. We heard voices saying there would be peace on earth and ‘God is Glorious….’”
Fire and rescue officials confirm a mid-wife was called
to the stable last night. It was assumed she assisted in the birth. Concern was expressed that the child might be vulnerable to infection because of the animals and barn environment.
According to the hotel manager, the apparently healthy child was wrapped in clean hotel linen. He was placed in a feeding trough filled with clean straw in an attempt to minimize the threat of contamination.
The manager identified the couple as Joseph-bar-Jacob and Mary of Nazareth. The hotel was full when they arrived after a nearly five-day journey. Nazareth is located in Galilee some 80 miles north, but part of the Syrian prefect, which includes Judea to the Sinai adjacent to Egypt.
The manager’s concern for Mary, who was apparently at full term, led him to offer a portion of the stable for the night.
“I could tell she was in great distress, but I was at a loss what to do because the hotel is full. Many rooms are occupied with travelers willing to share just to have a bed.
“A corner of the stable was cleaned, a makeshift bed made and their donkey shared a large stall,” he continued. “We made them as comfortable as we could.”
They will be allowed to stay until mother and child are permitted to travel again.
The town is jammed with returning natives, come to comply with the newest census order of all cities and towns.
The census demand by Caesar Augustus has the region in an uproar, local travel experts say. Citizens must return to their ancestral homes to verify familial links and comply with taxation decrees. It is the second such census of Caesar Augustus’ reign.
Rome continues to dominate this area giving local authority to King Herod, whose Hebrew culture offsets the nomadic lifestyle of tribal Arabs. The government is yet to comment on today’s news.
Joseph, who owns a carpentry shop in Nazareth, was quoted saying he was pleased to be in Bethlehem, his childhood home. He said it was an unexpectedly difficult journey.
“We were forced to take a broad detour east to the Jordan River, then south to avoid the dangerous roads in Samaria. We were able to join briefly with some caravans, but mostly stayed to ourselves, stopping only to eat and rest. I was aware that roving gangs might rob us.”
The Persian caravan included hundreds of astrologers and religious zealots, whose beliefs are based on gods with celestial origin. Known as Magi, these men wield significant influence in their world, experts say.
A spokesman for the Magi said a delegation had been sent to a small hotel where the child was born.
“We believe this child is an omen from the Gods and have arranged for gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to be delivered. We are honored to have been able to meet them.”
The brilliant star appears to be a comet or something similar, they said. It is described as probable fulfillment of prophecy that a spectacular event in the heavens would dramatically alter the world. They cite the expected birth of “One” who will be known as the Messiah.
It is believed the Magi were commissioned by King Herod to identify the location where this “Messiah” is to be born and to report to the Palace when they know. The Persians are believed to be more interested in the phenomenon of the Star than any threats to Herod posed by the child.
“We are not prepared to give any more public credence to the child’s birth than that which has already been applied to him. We understand the parents will call him Jesus and we don’t reject the notion that he may be the One described in ancient prophecy.
“We have no plans to report back to Herod and have advised the family to leave as soon as practicable for the protection of the child.
“We will continue to study the Star and expect it to have a huge influence on the future. Other than that we will return home soon. —©2012 Norman M. Covert