Thursday, July 10, 2014

A visit to Bethlehem, Where Jesus was Born

After our time at the Sea of Galilee, we drove to Jerusalem and dropped off the car. While we were able to drive the rental into Bethlehem, we would not be covered by insurance and the company could not help us if we got in trouble. So we took a taxi to the Bethlehem Bible College (right). This is a Palestinian Christian college very close to the wall, about half an hour walk from the centre of town. 

The people of the college are courageous people, strong believers in peace, people who stand for Christ in a most difficult environment. One senses the forces of Zionism and Islam crushing them. They are imprisoned inside the wall which towers over the town (left). They cannot leave without documentation.

Bethlehem is very different to the Jewish cities, and more like Nazareth. It is peopled by lovely friendly people who love to say “welcome” and engage you in conversation. They are delighted if you are staying in the town, and without doubt the friendliest place we visited in Israel. On our first walk we hung out with some disabled people in a spontaneous moment of dancing and fun (right). 

We also met a couple of young guys who were sad for their country and are heading overseas to get away (left). They spoke of their desire for peace, their love for the Israelis, but the problem being the leaders. There was also Muhammad who has a garage by the wall. There used to be a road to Jerusalem there but now it is closed. His business is on the rocks but he soldiers on.

We walked to the centre of town to visit the Church of the Nativity (right). That meant a walk through the market, which was awesome. It is chaotic, cars fitting in tiny streets, people selling their wares, vendors calling out, arguments over deals, and noise! It was cool! The people welcomed us warmly, not just to make a sale, but simply because we were there.

The Church of the Nativity is getting rebuilt internally which was sad. 

We used a local guide, a Cantor of the Church. That was inspired because he got us through the queues, and sang for us. He then invited us to a Greek child-baptism at which he sang (right, the cantor is tucked in beside the guy with the blue shirt). 

We got to see some hidden areas like the tomb of the children, where a whole lot of children’s skeletons are found. It is believed by some that these were the children Herod killed. Not sure about that but very sobering

The nativity area itself is interesting. We saw the supposed spot where Jesus was born (right). 

We also where he was laid in a manger, and where the magi bought gifts (left). 

We got to see these spots thanks to our Cantor, whose name by coincidence is Jesus!

We also visited the Milk Church (right) where it is said that Mary dropped a bit of milk and the stone is white and where there is a picture of Mary breastfeeding (left). I found this all a bit weird--not Mary breastfeeding, but the whole church site and dropped milk.

Other key sites we visited were Solomon’s Pools, an amazing set of three pools built under Solomon, meaning near 1000 years before Christ! They are fantastic (right and left). A number of Palestinian kids have drowned in them, so they are barred.

We also visited the Herodium, one of Herod’s palaces on top of a hill. Here we see again the influence of Herod the Great. Amos’ hometown Tekoa lies beside it (right), which fascinated me. It is a long way from the north where he was sent to prophesy

The views are extraordinary. 

There is a theatre, which faces toward Jerusalem (right). 

There are lots of ritual baths (like the one on the left), we find in all of Herod’s places. 

There is Herod’s grave (right). 

This is a great site.

One more thing. This is very near Bethlehem. It makes sense that the edict to kill the children of Bethlehem was enacted from here. Joseph didn't have long to get his family out and head to Egypt. 


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MArk Campbell said...

Great info and trip thots Mark. I'm in Israel in October accompanying my 90 yr old Dad on a tour to the feast of tabernacles event by ICEJ. I'll try to get to Bethlehem