We had breakfast at 7. Same old same old. I now currently eat egg and cheese in pita every breakfast hahaha.
We had a lecture at 8: was Jesus really born in Bethlehem? Interesting stuff. I mean, it begs to answer a question, here we are, worshipping and praying at all these sites- where Jesus was born, where the crucifixion happened, and so on, and it does make you wonder, did this really happen here? Or were these just the attempts of someone in the 2nd/3rd century to create a memorial to the events? Needless to say, wherever these events truly happened, we need to return to our text, the scriptures and study and prayerfully consider it. Either way, the places that we go to are powerful and sacred places, and places that people have been visiting and pilgrimaging to for thousands of years. (For instance: there is the Holy Sepulcher (the site the Catholics believed where Jesus was crucified, buried, etc and there is the Garden Tomb, the place where Protestants believed it happened...)
So, back to the schedule....we were off on our way to Bethlehem at 9. On our way, we stopped in En Kerem. This is the birthplace of John the Baptist. We went to the church of the Visitation. This is where Mary, pregnant with Jesus, visited Elizabeth, pregnant with John. We also saw John's birthplace, at a nearby church. At the C.o.V., they had the Magnificat (Mary's song to the Lord in Luke) in maybe 25 different languages on the wall. Then, at the Birthplace church, they had Zechariah's canticle in the same form. Pretty neat stuff.
After that, we went to Bethlehem! Yay! Turns out, Bethlehem is in the West Bank, which politically, was closed off and is being still closed off by a wall separating Jerusalem from the West Bank. Bethlehem is in Palestine. So, we had to go through a very long wait at a checkpoint to get through (on the way in and out). This is a terrible situation for these people. If your family is separated, chances are, you won't see them. Or, if the dad is Palestinian and the Mom and Children live in Jerusalem, you might only be able to visit your loved ones (and go to West Bank, not have the loved one get through to Jerusalem) on the weekends. If you work in Jerusalem, and you're from the West Bank, you have to get a permit EVERY day. We also heard that you can often only get a job/permit if you are over 30, married, and have kids. Then, once in Jerusalem with your permit, you can only stay from certain hours and must be back through the checkpoint by 10/1030. And to think, here we were in our tour bus, traipsing through, and we could just leave by the end of the day. What a sad situation politically.
Once we were in there, we went to Shepherd's Fields. This was the field (used to be) where the shepherd's saw the star and went and met Jesus then.
So, there's the problem, it's not really a field any more. Some church group got a hold of it and put a church (which was beautiful, don't get me wrong), and built up cement and concrete and everything around it, and it doesn't even feel authentic. Eh. So, we went in a cave that the shepherd's would have been living in. Pretty neat.
(these are two different folders, one is Alan's Camera (EOS), one is my Camera)
Then we went to a Christian store where they sold hand made goods from Christian families in Bethlehem. Since they are trapped in there, and they can't do import/exports, they do not really receive money for their products like they used to. (They are olive wood stuff). So, they tell us that tourism is their only income. So, ya, we bought some stuff hahaha.
We then ate lunch in the Tent Restaurant. It was delicious. They brought out about 9 plates of different middle eastern foods and a giant thing of pita. We had falafel then. And then a baklava type desert and then some coffee. I was stuffed.
Then, onto the Basilica of the Nativity. This was where Christ was born. So we checked out everything and then got in this huge line to see the place of the birth.
Sadly this was disappointing. There was no reverence for the spot from the group in front of us. And the rock was this little piece with a star around it. It didn't even feel like a cave or stalls or whatever. Oh well. We've been. Trying not to be bitter. Haha. These churches, I think it's great and the churches are beautiful on site, but there's not much authenticity then. There's more liturgical garb than actual real spot...
After returning to the college and eating dinner, we went to Ben Yahuda street. This is in West Jerusalem (we're in East Jerusalem) and this is where a lot of the Jewish people live, especially the Hasidic Jews. It was the end of Sabot, the sun had gone down. So, this was crazy! There were hundreds of people out in the street- mostly young- enjoying the night. We got some delicious gelato. :). But, the funny thing is, most of them were speaking English! Crazy.
After that, we returned to the College and went to bed.
What a day.