Our second full day took us to Bethlehem. I was so excited to be visiting here, this place that almost every child sings about at Christmas. As I have mentioned before I loved my bible stories and felt like Bethlehem would have a magical presence to it.
We arrived outside the Church of the Nativity. Crowds were milling about, led by umbrella and paddle waving tour-guides. We were an unruly rabble and just wandered in. The inside was not what I expected, to be honest I was a little disappointed with it’s high, beamed ceiling. I don’t really know what I expected……but it wasn’t this ‘modernness’.
The amount of people inside was amazing and we would have been standing in the queue to go and visit the area that Jesus was born for hours had Manal not pulled a few strings and managed to fast track us through. I felt really guilty. There were hundreds of people who had travelled far and wide to visit the birth place of Jesus. The most devout of Christians making a pilgrimage, emotional at the thought of seeing the ‘actual’ birthplace of Christ, and here was me, fast tracked through and thought I should see it because I was here and I could. We waited at the top of the stairs, hoping that no-one surged forward or lost their footing before walking down to the underground room that once was a stable.
Finally we were there in a small sweaty room, packed with people from all over the world, in every emotional state you could think of. And you were given a few seconds to kneel and look at or kiss the floor where the Virgin Mary gave birth to a new religion.
We made our way across Manger Square where for midday payers it became an extension of the mosque directly opposite the Church. Hundreds of men lined the square, facing Mecca, oblivious to us all in the background.
We walked past tacky ‘Jesus’ gift shops. If you want a glow in the dark Mary and Jesus..then this is your place. To me it made a mockery of the religion. Then we came to The Milk Grotto Church.
Now this place had an energy to it. It was calm and an overwhelming feeling of warmth and happiness engulfed me here….so much so that I blessed myself as I walked down the stairs. Not being a Catholic I to this day do not know why I did that, but it was instinctive.
There was a real sense of peace in this church compared with the Church of the Nativity. As well as the inside being serene and feeling as a place of worship should, the outside view was just as I had imagined Bethlehem in my dreams about the place. Rolling hills, covered in little white houses. But of course I was standing in Bethlehem, I was looking at one of the other hills surrounding the area.
We left this idyllic view to be taken to the start of The Wall. (The video of the photographs I have taken are in a previous post) Later this week I will blog on the one house that is left, surrounded by the wall and how Clare, the lady who still lives there feels about the situation..and what she has to face on a daily basis. From this place of Heaven to her place of Hell.