Today (27th December) I went to Bethlehem, I was planning on going Christmas day, but as I had no else to go with (travelling to the Palestinian territories on your own is not advised) and that it would be hugely crowded I went with a family who are parents of one of the other volunteers here. This family was partly here with a tour of some Filipino Christians who were here for a couple of weeks. I got to Hillel Street at 8.30am and we all packed onto a coach.
The trip out of Jerusalem into Bethlehem is pretty short, getting through borders to the Palestinian territories is nothing that complex either. Once through the gate in the concrete walls, this hotly contested area of the middle east isn’t at all that different from a regular part of Israel. I can see olive, orange and lemon trees with fruit on, houses in the familiar style stone, none of the land is particular flat, you are forever going up and down and around curves, there are children playing, of course this is an Arab district and I see mosques and minarets more or less the same as Jerusalem.
Bits of Bethlehem do look quite untidy just like outer parts of Jerusalem, half finished houses (or should that be houses with extensions unfinished?) broken cars rusting away, rubbish strewn around rocks, but at least where I could see, it doesn’t seem to be all full of poverty, there are large modern houses with swimming pools as well, and just like Jewish culture, the Arabs have plenty of small businesses of all kinds. The cars look noticeably older (despite most cars in Jerusalem are old and knackered looking) mostly 1980s Peugeots, Renaults and Toyotas, and they have green licence plates and sign posts are in Arabic with no Hebrew to be seen.
The first stop on the coach was at this place called the The Shepherd’s place, which had a park which had an entrance with the words “Gloria in Excelcius Deo” (sounds like some words from a hymn?) Here is a very pretty chapel and some really beautiful views of the Judean hills.
Here is the inside of this chapel, the pictures here tell some of the story in the Christmas carols…
Spent a good while here, this picture below shows me with the hills in the background, this location is where the Shepherds watched their flocks that came to visit Jesus.
aha, now I know where Santa got the idea of calling his workplace a ‘grotto’ 🙂