Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, Over the Wall


View of the Separation Wall

We finished lunch in Jerusalem, boarded another bus (seven vans/buses throughout the day) that whisked us out of Jerusalem towards Bethlehem to the Church of the Nativity, the last stop of the day.

In case you didn’t know, Bethlehem is in the West Bank, meaning our guide, an Israeli citizen, was unable to escort us across the border (think border crossing into Mexico) because of his passport (no entry for Israeli’s). (On the way out of Bethlehem, we had to go through immigration and had to show our passports for exit back into Jerusalem). At the border (a massive separation wall), our tour group was handed off to a Palestinian tour guide who walked us though a never ending, snaking corridor that led out onto the other side of the imposing wall. From here we hopped into yet another van, which eventually dropped us off at the Church of the Nativity, the birth place of Jesus.

Entrance to Main Hall of the Church of the Nativity

The 5 cross 'Jerusalem Cross' or 'Crusaders Cross' representing the five wounds of Jesus

From the outside, the church looks more like a medieval fortress. The entrance to the church (called the Door of Humility), once grand, was lowered by Crusaders to prevent mounted horsemen from entering, so you have to stoop down to enter.

Interior of the church
Mosaics along the nave

Original 4th-century mosaic floors
Closer shot of the mosaic flooring

Once inside, the church is light and spacious. There are fragments of mosaics flanking the walls and in the center of the church on the floor are lifted-up wooden panels revealing the church’s original 4th-century mosaic floors.

The line to get into the Grotto of the Nativity was massive so our tour guide did some fancy finagling and got us all front of the line passes (on the sly) much to the chagrin of those who had waited (patiently) in line. (I’d be mad too if I was them). The “exact” spot that marks the birth of Jesus (and the cause of the massive line) is marked by a fourteen-pointed star (this star also boasts the dubious honor of being the cause of the Crimean War). We missed the Chapel of the Manger (where Christ was laid) and the Altar of the Adoration of the Magi (where the Wise Men are believed to have adored the infant Jesus) somewhere down in this same vicinity, but line cutters can’t be choosers (or get too greedy). We were given seconds to see and snap shots and told to surface as quickly as possible (hence, the pictures are a little fuzzy).

A small door in the main church leads to an adjoining courtyard and (Roman Catholic) Church of Saint Catherine (built in 1881). This is the church where Christmas Eve Midnight Mass is televised throughout the world.

Mass going on in the Church of St. Catherine

Entrance into St. Catherine's

This was the conclusion of our tour of the Church of the Nativity. We got back into a van and were escorted once again to do more shopping at another ‘certified’ shop. Raj was able to work his haggling-magic one last time, enabling us to purchase some beautifully hand-carved olive wood serving bowls.

Waiting for the van...
Olive wood carved serving bowls

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14 thoughts on “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, Over the Wall

  1. Wow, The pictures are wonderful.. Why so few at Mass? I saw those wood bowls at Pier 1 for $2.99 but don’t tell Raj, he would start crying.. Actually the olive wood bowls are a wonderful treasure and each time you use them you will remember all the wonderful sites..Keep on with the blog, I love it.. Dad

  2. There are so many things that I love about this post! The Icon paining is incredible and I am going to try to pin it……..You should see my dining room, I have them everywhere. The wooden bowls are fabulous and I love the picture of you waiting for the bus. You must stick out like a sore thumb over there with your blonde hair and California good looks! 🙂 Thanks for taking us on a tour that reminds me that not everyone can go anywhere they want which is a good thing to be reminded of during Holy Week.

    P.S. – Jen, I love your blog but I love reading your dad’s comments on your post just as much! He’s funny and smart and you can tell he loves you very much – reminds me of how taken my dad was with me, when he was alive. I hope you keep blogging and he keeps posting.

    1. Thanks for the kinds words. Choosing the icons was so difficult. There were so many to choose from and one was more beautiful than the next.
      That’s funny that you mentioned my dad’s comments because some are from my dad and some are from my mom using his account (because she can’t for the life of her figure out how to log into her own account). You may have noticed too that my sister and I gently make fun of her for ‘impostering’ my dad by using his account.

  3. Jen, wihat beautiful photos. Your blog is so timely, since this is Holy Week. Your words and pictures help bring us all a little closer to the important things we believe in. Keep up your blogging.
    Love, Mom

  4. Jen, thanks for your wonderful history lessons and pictures. I anxiously await your posts…..and to see your next adventures. I loved your Dad’s post about the olive bowls….please don’t tell Raj, but I bought a set of 6 for $3.00 at a yard sale! Just kidding…they are beautiful and I am sure you will fill them with a creative, cullinary delight. Take good care….Happy Easter….and when you come home, we will celebrate at the Vineyard 🙂

  5. Lovely post, and gorgeous photos (particularly the mosaic floor). Definitely on my ‘places to visit one day’ list. I love that your Dad comments. My mum is a regular commenter on my blog too.

    1. Thanks. My mom and dad both post, but my mom can’t figure out how to log in to her own account so she ‘imposters’ my dad. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell who’s who.

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