Stain a soap failed to re­move

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Ge­of­frey Al­der­man

Sthose re­spon­si­ble for the script re­alised that this was the case.

This episode (avail­able on BBC iPlayer) fea­tures a school na­tiv­ity play. Two chil­dren take on the roles of Joseph and his wife, the very heav­ily preg­nant Mary, try­ing to find some­where to stay in Beth­le­hem. Ac­cord­ing to the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, and to the em­bel­lish­ments of var­i­ous apoc­ryphal texts, they were ap­par­ently re­fused ad­mis­sion to an inn, and had to make do with a stable, wherein Mary gave birth. But this was not the version re­told in EastEn­ders. In the EastEn­ders version, Joseph and Mary are re­fused ad­mis­sion to var­i­ous hostel­ries be­cause of their re­li­gion. The B&B that even­tu­ally ad­mits them is ap­par­ently run by an ad­her­ent of Is­lam (also played by a child, a young boy), and Joseph proudly an­nounces to his wife, to the school au­di­ence and of course the view­ing pub­lic that they are able to stay there be­cause (and I quote) “Is­lam wel­comes all faiths.”

From an his­tor­i­cal point of view this version of events is to­tal non­sense. It’s also dan­ger­ous non­sense. Al­though the EastEn­ders na­tiv­ity play makes no men­tion of the fact, Joseph and Mary, the birth par­ents of Je­sus, were Jewish. Schol­ars whom I have con­sulted agree that, even if the na­tiv­ity as told in the Gospels is – broadly speak­ing – true, the couple were cer­tainly not re­fused ad­mis­sion to any inn on re­li­gious grounds. Re­mem­ber that at the time of the na­tiv­ity Chris­tian­ity did not yet ex­ist, nor (more to the point) did Is­lam, the ori­gins of which date from over six hun­dred years later.

“Why are you making such a fuss?” I can hear some of you say. “Why stir the pot?” Be­cause, dear friends, the mes­sages of the TV soaps have a habit of drain­ing deep into pop­u­lar cul­ture and they spread, thereby, into so­ci­ety’s col­lec­tive mem­ory. Who­ever was re­spon­si­ble for the lu­di­crous na­tiv­ity sto­ry­line broad­cast on De­cem­ber 24 was try­ing to fool us. This piece of ut­terly false pro­pa­ganda needs to be ex­posed.

Mary and Joseph were Jewish. So was their son, Je­sus. The towns from which and to which they jour­neyed (Nazareth and Beth­le­hem) were Jewish. So was Jerusalem.

For some time, the Pales­tinian Arab lead­er­ship has be­ing do­ing its best to deny that there ever was any link be­tween Jerusalem and the Jewish peo­ple. But the his­tor­i­cal record says oth­er­wise.

In for­mer times, Mus­lim schol­ars are even on record as declar­ing that both Jewish Tem­ples stood at the very spot whereon the al-Aqsa mosque was sub­se­quently con­structed. “The place be­longed to the whole com­mu­nity of the chil­dren of Is­rael,” wrote the 15th-cen­tury Egyp­tian imam Jalal-Ad­din (in his History of the Tem­ple of Jerusalem), “ev­ery one of whom had a right in it.”

EastEn­ders is a work of fic­tion. In works of fic­tion we must all ex­pect and per­mit a de­gree of dra­matic li­cence. But it seems to me that, in its 24 De­cem­ber re­con­struc­tion of a school na­tiv­ity play, EastEn­ders has abused this li­cence.

An apol­ogy is called for.

The BBC’s dan­ger­ous pro­pa­ganda needs to be ex­posed

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