Saturday, 15 December 2012

Palestine Territories: Bethlehem

Kissing the birth place of Jesus
Saturday 24 November: Israeli buses don’t run on the Shabbat so from Damascus Gate I catch a Muslim run bus towards Bethlehem, a small Arab town in the occupied territories. The main draw card here is Church of the Nativity which purports to mark the spot where Jesus was born. There’s a Bishop visiting from Jerusalem to announce that it’s one month to Christmas (I wonder if this is really necessary) and the church is cordoned off. So I have an early lunch of humus and falafel to wait for it to open again. Finally I bow down through a low doorway and enter the holy site. Thankfully there are no coach parties and for a short while I have the place to myself. Soon some weeping girls arrive and kiss the spot where baby Jesus was born. Behind us there are more weeping women praying to the candle-lit manger. I’m a little surprised to see that the manger is made of marble, perhaps this explains how it survived for 2,000 years. I don’t believe any of this for a minute.
Originally I intended returning to Bethlehem for Christmas, and yes there is room at the inn, but as it's a Muslim town there's likely to be little festive spirit and even less beer.
Slideshow of Bethlehem.

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