Bethlehem

Trip Start Sep 19, 2010
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21
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Trip End Oct 25, 2010


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Flag of Israel  ,
Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bethlehem

My guide Eli was only available with his accessible van the first two days so I was sub-contacted to his friend Kaled to take me to Bethlehem.  Bethlehem, surprising to me is actually in Palestine and Kaled has Palestinian citizenship but is a Jew and lives in Israel.  However, he can cross the border which features a high wall with towers and a check point manned by soldiers.  I did not expect to be going to Palestine and considered myself rather fortunate to have been able to go. It was a little scary going by the guard who checked my passport once again.   Eli and Kaled are friends and while I was there I met Neil, Kalad's nephew, Dan, a Baptist Missionary, George, a Catholic and biblical scholar and another fellow whose name I cannot remember who is a Muslim.  These individuals are friends and business assiociates, even though we would expect that perhaps they would not be, especially is Israel but they all spoke openly about the need for a settlement of the Israel/Palestine question and how hard it is to negotiate a settlement.  They have lived there all their lives and yet admit that they themselves do not understand all the issues involved.  They also said that all the religious denominations that lay claim to an interest in and a desire for control over certain properties and areas of Jerusalem and beyond, make it doubly hard to get agreement on how things should be handled.  It is a small piece of land, with enormous history and significance to so many people, who are passionate about their feelings. These individuals are all against any show of force by anyone and believe that each of us should choose our beliefs and live by them and let others do the same.  The fact that I am a Catholic was accepted and appreciated by each and they did not try to convert me.  Sell me something, yes indeed, but preach at me, no, not in the slightest.

After Kaled drove me to Bethlehem, George, his Catholic friend, took me through the Church of the Nativity.  This is celebrated as the birthplace of Jesus in a cave-like area below the main church area, down some steep stairs that I managed with my canes.  At the time the older section of the church area was undergoing extensive renovations and their was scaffoding everywhere.  This is not just one church but 4, with the Armenians, Catholics, Greek Orthodox each having a section.  The Catholic Church is the newest as you will see from the pictures.  At the time I was there, I was extremely lucky as there was a special service going on in the cave area - a joint service by all the demoninations  in a co-operative venture.  There was chanting and incense and priests in various robes.  We tried to be very quiet and unassuming and I lucky I had a camera that takes pictures without flash in low light - pretty good ones.  The space was very small and the celebrated birthplace was on the opposite wall.  I could not believe how many people simply ignored the spiritual nature of the ceremony taking place and walked all the way down the stairs crossing the floor between the priests to have a look into the small area  where Jesus is said to have been born, using flash to take picture.  George tried to stop them but they just pushed past him.  No wonder so many places are closed to tourists.  The pictures are fascinating to look at, especially since I experienced the cermony.  I also have a movie clip or two which I don't believe I would have ever gotten if it had not been for George.  Of course, this being Israel, we had the obligatory stop at George's friends Jewellery store and I bought a Jerusalem cross pendant which I love and have worn nearly every day since.  

 
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Comments

Elizabeth Riehm on

Hi Laura, I've been enjoying your pictures and comments. I'm amazed at the places you get to, especially like the pictures of you in these historic settings.
Now, you must write a book when you get home. You have a tremendous capacity to take in all tyhat's going on around you. Do you think the camera helps or hinders you ? I find i can miss things when concentrating on taking pictures.
We were in Ottawa and I had a visit with Mary Vaive. She has made a miraculous recovery from the recurrence of her cancer. She looks even younger in spite of her crop of snow white hair. I told her about your trip. Her e-mail is mvaive@rogers.ca.
Stay healthy and happy,
Elizabeth Riehm

Marilyn on

Laura: I had no idea that you were going on such a long trip. I have been finding your messages and pictures very interesting, particularly the Jerusalem information.

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