Yesterday we traveled via bus to Bethlehem. It was about 20 minutes away from our hotel in Jerusalem, so not very far.
Our Pastor on the trip made an important note: Mary and Joseph would have traveled about 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem and it would have likely taken them 2 weeks via donkey. Can you imagine? And y’all. The streets are sooo hilly.
Most of Bethlehem looked like this.
This white stone is pretty standard for the construction in this community.
Our first stop was Shepherd’s Field – the place where it is believed the angel appeared to the shepherds out in the fields about Jesus.
Yep – I couldn’t stop singing…
“While shepherds kept their watching. O’er silent flocks by night, Behold throughout the heavens. There shone a holy light. Go, tell it on the mountain!”
Shepherd’s Field wasn’t much of a field. Like most of the holy sites here in the area, it has been covered with churches or monuments, etc.
There was a beautiful overlook and if you look to the right, you will see a bit of a field. Maybe that is what it was like back in the day of Jesus. And there are sideways trees also.
There was a beautiful church meeting room in a cave below the other church building.
Next, we headed to the Church of the Nativity – the place marking the location believed to be where Jesus was born.
This is the actual sanctuary and it was beautiful.
The place marking the spot of the nativity actually wasn’t anything like what I expected. I was not prepared for what was ahead. First of all, the holy site is under construction for renovations. Scaffolding everywhere.
We stood in a line that moved EXTREMELY slow. People crowded around and we went down steps into this little itty bitty door you had to bend down to get through.
We stood here for a very very very long time. And people got SUPER close to each other. I was lucky enough to have a group of middle schoolers around me from the West Bank area of Palestine.
They didn’t speak English – but they learned my name. And they said STARR over and over and over. And giggled a lot. I entertained them by showing them photos of our kids haha!
Finally, we went inside the little door. And then there were crowds inside the little room.
This little room is built underneath the altar of the sanctuary of the church. It was crowded, it was hot and extremely hard to get photos.
Here is a lady from our group – Aunty Shai 🙂
The inside of that little shrine looks like this.
I guess I don’t really understand all of the ornate decorations. That may have something to do with how I was raised. I would think something simple would be fine. But that’s just me.
Outside in the courtyard was much prettier to me.
And I ran into my middle school friends again!
We had lunch in Bethlehem at a local cafe – Brian and I were excited about Coke in little glass bottles!
After lunch, we stopped by the International Nativity Museum. This place was SOO cool. It was created in order to show how people around the world celebrate the nativity. Have you ever thought about that? Me neither. Y’all know I love me some Christmas!!!
There were over 300 nativities from countries around the world. Here are a few of my favorites.
Before leaving Bethlehem, we found this local wood shop recommended by a friend! It is appropriately called the Christmas House!!
The owner was onsite and he manages a local factory that cuts all of the olive wood products. This display outside of his store is a small version of a larger nativity he created for a church in England!
It was absolutely stunning!
Today, we rode up to the top of the Mount of Olives – the place where Jesus taught so many times. The views of Jerusalem and the Old City were unlike any we had seen yet.
We rode camels and it was pure hilariousness.
As our teacher explained our surroundings, I realized all of these stones were graves.
Words can’t describe.
We walked all the way down the Mount of Olives. Jesus made this same walk and the scriptures tell us he wept for Jerusalem. As I sat and pondered the scriptures, I wondered how much more God must weep for us today. I sat with tears streaming down my face at the realities of this broken world.
Our walk down the mountain took us directly to the Garden of Gethsemane.
This garden was likely much larger back in the days of Jesus, but this small section has been preserved. Our leaders shared about the area and Brian read scripture to us from Luke Chapter 22.
The garden faces the Old City walls of Jerusalem. As you stand on the mount and in the garden – the Bible comes alive. So much comes together. So many things I’ve seen in the past few days become more real. It was probably my favorite day yet our of trip.
We then drove up the road towards the Old City. This area is where the steps would have led up to the temple before it was demolished. Some of the remaining stone still appear.
We passed the City of David and the Kidron Valley where you can still find the Tomb of Absalom.
As we got back into the Old City of Jerusalem, we headed towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
I should explain – this location is where historical archeologists and scholars believe to be the crucifixion and tomb of Jesus Christ.
Most Christian church people like myself believe that this location was slightly different. We are visiting that location later in our trip and I will share more about that when I learn 🙂
Anyways, we still visited this site and it was beautiful inside. There are many churches that control different parts of the building and so many different areas/chapels inside.
This location is marked as where the crucifixion may have happened.
I took an idea from my cousin that just visited the Holy Land a few weeks ago. These candles are available everywhere. Brian and I got several and lit them as we prayed for our family, friends, church and business. We brought the candles back with us and plan to give them out to our friends and family as a memento.
I particularly loved this chapel area inside the church.
To end out our day, we visited the Western Wall.
The bottom part of this wall where you can see the larger stones is the last remaining remnant of the temple that was destroyed. The Jewish faith believes this wall is very significant and they visit to pray – especially to start their observance of Shabbat on Friday evenings at dusk.
Millions of people visit this wall. I went tonight and it was incredible to observe and to pray.
I’m thinking a lot about the end times – all that was told about what is to come. If you visit this area, you see it all happening.
I’m thinking a lot about our responsibility as Christians.
I’m thinking a lot about how big God really is and how small our world in North Carolina really is.
As I sat at the wall tonight, I observed so many people with rituals and traditions – things we aren’t as accustomed to in our own faith.
What if we made time for prayer something set apart?
What if we got as serious about our faith as some of these I witnessed tonight are about theirs?
I’ll share more about our adventures as I can!