“Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.”

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 back upstairs and back outside. Sadly I was unmoved by this what I felt to be, highly impersonal building. I expected to feel warmth and some emotion, but sadly for me it lacked both.

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.

About shakingtheshadowsfromtheolivetrees

I have a massive case of wanderlust and plan to see as much of this beautiful planet as I can before I die. I love Egypt, which gave me my first taster of Arabic culture, since then I have travelled to a few Arabic-speaking countries. My idea of a nightmare is an all inclusive 5* hotel resort. I much prefer to stay in basic accommodation in amongst the locals. Some of the best food I have eaten has been street food...and incidentally some of the worst has been in a 5*hotel. This year has given me the opportunity to visit Palestine, a place I loved to read about when I was younger in my children's bible. I am sure it isn't going to disappoint.
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2 Responses to “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.”

  1. The families whose livelihoods come from those little shops around the Square also have incredible stories to share and they uphold traditions that have continued for many, many years. There are few of them left and if they seem tacky, it is possibly because they have not changed much, but if you step inside and talk to them, you will find loving, gentle people who stay despite the difficulties. Carving olivewood into mementos of a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Jesus is done with love and respect and is a tradition passed down from family to family – for me, to have visited there and spent time getting to know those families was an immense privilege, but it is true that I had 2 months in Bethlehem, so much more time to slowly get to know it and spend many visits entirely alone in both the Church of Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus and the Milk Grotto.

    • I can imagine they do have incredible stories and many of the carving shops were amazing. Unfortunately, I only had a whistle-stop visit here and didn’t have time to get to know stories about how life has changed for them, as I did in other places. I didn’t mean to do them a disservice, but there were some very ‘tacky’ shops there too. I would love to return and have more time to wander around and speak to these people. I do hope to return next year and spend more time meeting people and visiting the wonderful sites that the country holds. Thank you for your comment Claire.

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