In Holy Mass, wine is used. But, especially in the Latin rite back then, hardly a whole bottle at a time. Only the priest communicates in the species of wine, and he is not supposed to get drunk on it. So, sometimes a priest has to finish a bottle over the table which he began using for the Eucharist. To share the mass wine is considered a great honour, and Susan was invited over a glass with the priest and his housekeeper - an aunt of his. It was Cremisan - the wine from a Salesian monastery close to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. And, as Israel had already been voted into existance a few years ago in United Nations, Cremisan Vinyards as sooner or later menaced by Jewish settlers came into the conversation.
"But cannot one at least understand them? I mean, according to the Bible it is their land!"
"God gave the land to Abraham and his descendants for ever."
"Christ is the seed of Abraham."
"Well, but Jews lived here till after the Destruction of Jerusalem. Then the Romans came, then the Arabs with Islam."
"And we Christian Arabs, where do we come from?"
She was just going to say "with the Arabs" when she recalled that Muslims hardly tolerated even individual conversions to Christianity, still less the defection of a whole countryside or half of it.
"Weren't you Arabs in part converted by the Crusaders?"
"We were here before the Crusaders, guess again."
"Did the Arabs from Arabia bring along Christians in their troops?"
"So, you are Romans ..."
"In a sense, yes."
"And after year Seventy you came here and took the land of the Jews, right?"
"In a sense, yes."
"Why do you keep saying 'in a sense'? You weren't here before year seventy, were you?"
"We left shortly before, as the Lord had commanded us. We fled when the Roman troops came."
"Wait ... that is what happened to the Church of Jerusalem!"
"We lived here in the time of David. We were known as Israelites and the tribe of Judah back then. We accepted Jesus as the true Christ, the promised Messiah, when St Peter preached to us. And when Titus arrived, we fled to Pella. There we founded the Church in Jordania. After the destruction of Jerusalem, we who had not been part of the rising, came back and we were known as Romans. So was St Paul - as nomadic a tentmaker as you could wish for. And we remained speakers of Aramaic, the language of Jesus. It is pretty close to Arabic, so I suppose it was no harder for us to learn Arabic under Omar - and some of us were forced to become Muslims - than it was for Scots from the Lowlands to learn English under industrialism. Aramaic as well as Latin are our liturgic languages, but Arabic our daily language."
"So Palestinians are really Christian Jews?"
"We say Galileans, rather than Jews, because, first of all, it was not just Jews, but Jews, Samarians and Galileans, second, Jews and Samarians had been used as names for rivalling factions the last thousand years of the Old Testament. But third and most important: Christ was called a Galilean."
"Why do Jews not recognise you then?"
"They decided in Jamnia not to recognise Christians as Israelites."
"Oh, I did not know that ... sorry."
"Nothing to be sorry for, most English do not know that. And it is Christmas, not a Season for sorrow, even if one is worried. Let us thank God for the good cheer as long as it lasts!" said the priest with a defiant smile.
And Susan could not help thinking of Father Christmas, back in Narnia.
"Let us do that!" she said and they lifted their glasses.