Bethlehem

9:30:00 AM Brooke Neal 4 Comments

This was a difficult post for me to write because I didn't love Bethlehem.  We visited on Christmas Day and while all our Facebook friends were like, "wow what an awesome way to spend your holiday," it really wasn't all that.  First, let me say, we had a really nice guide who spoiled us, driving us around to all the sites and taking us to some he normally doesn't take people to.  He also took us to his home where his wife made us a delicious lunch and his children entertained Eden.  So, it wasn't for lack of effort, I just didn't feel the spirit of Bethlehem like I expected I would.  
The Details
Guide: Mohammad Alshiabat: bethlehembaby@yahoo.com
Phone: 801-935-9818
Cost: $200 private day tour
Tip: We took a taxi to Bethlehem--our taxi driver called Mohammad to arrange the meeting point. At the end of the day Mohammad called our taxi driver who took us back to Jerusalem.  

 We began our day at Mohammad's favorite bread shop--the falafel and bread were super tasty!
Our first "official" stop was the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birth spot of Jesus Christ.  A church has stood on this spot since about 327 AD when Helena, mother of Constantine and Christian convert set out to locate sites having to do with Christ.  Today it's a bit of a mess with scaffolding covering the interior.

As you can imagine it was quite busy with people clamoring to get down inside the cave where Christ was born.  It is something of a disaster.  Imagine an hour glass full of people all trying to funnel into the bottleneck to get to the other side.  In the pictures below you can see Eden was pressed in on all sides by eager pilgrims.  We pushed and pushed until finally we were inside the cave where we were given a gracious 5 seconds to snap a couple of pictures.
 The star on the ground "marks the spot" where Christ was born, but I wasn't feeling it.

Mohammad took us to a church next door that also has caves and burials from around the time of Christ. In the absence of any other tourists it was far more pleasant and honestly, has as much possibility of being the birthplace as the Basilica next door.
Bethlehem hosts a Western styled Christmas party on Christmas Eve--it was so strange and out of place to see the typical trappings of Christmas in the middle east.
After tooling around Bethlehem, Mohammad took us out to Herodium, a fortress/palace built by King Herod--it also served as his burial.  The coolest part of the site are the underground tunnels that were carved out during times of rebellion.

More underground tunneling and those massive rolling stones from the Roman era were used to, well, roll over people in battle.
Mohammad assured us Mary and Joseph would have come into town via this road. 

Way out in the desert is this monastery--the surroundings are beautiful and out here I could imagine shepherds watching their flocks by night and taking refuge in those caves.
 Bethlehem in the background.
 After a long day (and trying to avoid on coming car sickness) Bob found us like this in the back seat.


4 comments:

  1. Oh my, I agree with you...that would be quite strange to experience western civilization Christmas "decor" in Bethlehem. We had a similar experience with the crowds while visiting the Sistine Chapel one year (they were doing renovations and the normal traffic flow was severely impacted). I was literally scared for my little one's safety with all the crowding, pushing and shoving. Sometimes we have a mental picture of how we expect places to be, and what we will experience...and then sometimes the reality is often at odds with that. It's dissapointing. BUT...it's still an experience to take in. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Hey! You've got a great blog, and I love all your pictures from your trip to Israel. I visited many of the same places back in 1997, so your pictures was a "travel back in time"! We went off-season, and could spend some more time inside the churches and at other typical tourist places.

    My best memory from Israel, however, is from Tiberias. There's a little amphi in the middle of the city, and we stopped there to sing a psalm. It was the song "How great Thou art", but we sang it in norwegian. While singing, a japanese group joined us, singing along in japanese, and then an american group entered the place and sang in english. It was a moment where we felt a deep unity despite geographical distance!

    I haven't seen ALL of your blog yet, so I don't know if you've ever been to Norway. If you haven't, you have to tell yourself, with a convincing voice: We have to visit Norway! You can ask me for travelling tips, if you need some inside information...

    May God bless your week!

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  3. Funny that you say that because I had a similar feeling in Jerusalem where the claim Jesus died. It felt so devoid of spirit. I did feel close to him out by the Dead Sea and at the river Jordan, but felt the baptism that were taking place kind of a mockery .

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  4. I would imagine it would be a bit less hectic on any other day of the year!

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