One of the news headlines this morning revealed that President Obama’s helicopter was grounded by a dust storm, so that he had to travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem via motorcade rather than by air.
Having traveled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and back again more times than I could possibly count, I found myself wondering why anybody would bother doing the trip by air. After all, as Alma 7:10 famously says, Bethlehem is within “the land of Jerusalem.”
The president was due to visit the very ancient Church of the Nativity there. The entry door to the Church is much smaller than it once was — the outlines of earlier, larger doors are still clearly visible — and visitors to it are obliged to bend over, to bow, in order to enter. Some say that this is deliberate; the entry forces at least a show of humility. Others suggest that it was made so small in order to prevent mounted warriors from riding into the Church on their horses.
I found myself wondering whether President Obama would be obliged to bow in order to gain access to the interior of the Church. Or whether he would actually enter it. Or whether a larger entrance would be made for him.
Don’t laugh. There’s precedent: The Jaffa Gate, one of the principal entrances into the Old City of Jerusalem through Sulaiman the Magnificent’s early-sixteenth-century walls, was grossly enlarged — mutilated? destroyed? — early in the twentieth century in order to permit Kaiser Wilhelm II to ride into the city without needing to soil the two imperial feet.