Tag Archives: Bethlehem

2000 + years later….

Its becoming a new tradition for me to spend Christmas Eve in Bethlehem…this was my 2nd year trekking across the border for the festivities.  Its crazy to try to imagine how it was back then, compared to now; but my mind wandered back to the night when HE was born (standing on the same ground will do that do you).

This year there were TONS of people there.  I think the fact that the weather was nicer this year, brought out more locals (and by locals, I mean Men.  Women were few and far between).  As I stood looking toward the crowd, I thought, “and what a contrast to the few animals that were there to witness his birth..”

I had other moments that took me back.  Moments of, “I can’t believe I’m seeing this here” like the infamous STARS and BUCKS coffee shop (close enough to attract Starbucks lovers, but not close enough to break any infringement rights).  Can you imagine if Mary was like, “Oh, Stars and Bucks!!!” We traveled all this way, I could really use a cup of Stars and Bucks coffee to get me through this…” hehehe. (ok, well even if Mary wouldn’t have been excited, I sure was)

And of course, we all have this nice little image of what it was like that night… in a cute little manger, surrounded by the shepherds, wise men, donkeys, sheep, and the shining star on top.  I’m sure our pop culture plays a big part in that; but as I stood, posing next to the famous “nativity scene” in front of the Arab Christian tourist shop I actually took a moment to imagine what it was really like that night.

More or less, likely in a small cave or some sort…cold…smelly…dark…birth-pains…

This is how our Savior was born.

And I was humbled.

For as I looked all around me, 2000 + years later, I saw an extreme of opposites surrounding me.  Now versus then.

But ONE thing remains the same: The REASON!  His LOVE remains the same both then and now.  He came for them; He came for us.  He died for you; He died for me. No matter how much our world changes, for better or worse, this one constant will remain the same….and I love HIM even more today than yesterday.

Bethlehem is a wonderful place to be on Christmas Eve, and I hope the tradition continues for years to come, but the location is just that…. a location.  What matters is what’s in our ❤!  That is the truth of Christmas!  Much love to all of you, from my beloved Bethlehem!

(and wouldn’t it be fun to join me next year!?!)

Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

Last night I had the most amazing Christmas Eve ever!  I spent my Eve in Bethlehem and had such a tremendous time.  In Manger Square there were bands playing from all over, tourists everywhere, midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity, and even the Palestinian President himself was there for a tour of the church (along with his millions of soldiers too).  It was honestly one of the most incredible nights for me, and I think I might even be on some Palestinian TV channel somewhere (scary).  There were TV cameras from all over the world there!  Here are some moments from the night:

Merry Christmas from Bethlehem!!!

The best cup of tea EVER

I have now had the best cup of tea in the world, according to the everyone who comes in the oldest coffee/tea shop there is.  During my excursion in Bethlehem, we stopped into this tiny whole in the wall (literally, it was just that) to get a cup of tea from this little old man who runs it.  At this point in my journey I was up to anything, so I just went with the flow.  As I entered the “hole” I see in front of me 4 plastic chairs, 3 of which only have 3 legs and a mattress on the floor. To the right on a small shelf was the old water jug, kettle, and bunsen burner looking like thing to heat the water.  Hmmm, I don’t know about the level of purification of this water, but I pray that the fire boils it enough.

I am immediately offered the best chair (the one with all the legs still in tact) and the old man begins making my tea.  About a minute after I sit down a police officer enters with a smile on his face when he sees me.  I’m not sure what thats all about, but he starts talking to me in English.  “Are you afraid to be here?” he asks me. (Remembering the fact that I am this little foreign white girl in the middle of the Muslim quarter) I think a second before I answer and say, “Not really.  I feel a bit strange when everyone keeps staring at me, but not scared.”  He replies back, “Now you have me for protection so you don’t ever have to worry.” A smile emerges on my face.

Now my tea is ready.  He puts a bunch of leaves inside the tea, and I’m told they are mint.  I take a sip of the burning hot liquid and besides scorching my tongue a bit, I thoroughly enjoy my drink.  And yes,  to agree with all the hype of the tea… it is the best cup of tea EVER!  

Making my tea

Making my tea

My yummy cup of tea

My yummy cup of tea

Yes… I did go to Bethlehem

If you aren’t aware of the serious issues concerning Israel with Bethlehem then you won’t understand how amazing it is that I was able to go there.  Right now citizens of Israel are not even allowed into the city, and citizens of Bethlehem are not allowed in and out at all.  Its not really encouraged to go there as a foreigner; in fact it is strongly discouraged, but hey… you only live once.

Let me start from the beginning.  I had just spent the morning in the old city and was pretty worn out.  I sat down outside Jaffa gate for a bit of rest when this man approached me.  He said hello and began talking. (FYI: I am not in the business of speaking with strange men, especially in Jerusalem, especially who are Arab; but for some reason I felt comfortable.)  

After a bit of conversation, he told me he was a believer.  Now, for someone to openly come out and say that was pretty unusual….well, extremely unusual!  I thought, either he was trying to get information out of me, or he could actually be telling the truth.  I played it safe and didn’t tell him anything about me.  Then his family came over and I talked briefly with them as well.  As time went on I felt more and more that they were in fact believers and telling the truth.

Now comes the interesting part… He tells me that he is going to Bethlehem today and asks me if I would like to come along for a tour.  (He is from Jordan; therefore, is allowed into the city.)  At this point I am at a crossroads and have two choices.  

1. Trust this man and go with him, knowing fully well that I am putting myself in a bit of danger.

2. Play it safe and don’t go.

Welllll, I said a quick, “Lord, what should I do?” and immediately felt a peace about going.  (Good thing I asked God and not my parents.  I think I know what their answer would have been.)  So, we got on a bus and took a 30 minute ride to Bethlehem.  

During the trip he was telling me all about his family, his past, his present etc.  I must say he is a very well educated and knowledgeable guy.  He also felt the need to brush me up on my Bible knowledge, even though I knew all he was telling me. It was sweet though.

Bethlehem:  The entire city is completely walled in….it’s a site to see!  You cannot get in or out without going through security checkpoint, so they have control of everything.  What happened next was pretty surreal.  We entered the city and began walking down the middle.  Bethlehem is divided into two sides: Muslim and Christian, though the Muslim percent is about 80 compared to the 20% Christian.  I can honestly say that I was the ONLY white person there.  I don’t think there’s been a time in my life when I felt more uncomfortable.  All the women were fully clothed with their head covering and here I was, walking with a tank-top and kakis in the midst of them.  I asked Ibrahaim if I should cover up and he said, “No! You’re fine.  You’re with me,” like it was a silly question.

I could go on and on about the situation there, but all I will say is that its heartbreaking!  These people are prisoners within their own city.  Living in such closed quarters with people groups that historically just do not get along, its no wonder why there is such duress there.  Constant fighting and danger is always a threat to Bethlehem. 

After walking around and meeting TONS of people (he seems to know everyone) we went to the Nativity Church, built on the site where Jesus was born.   Most of us westerners picture Jesus being born in a stable, like we see at Christmas time; but the truth is that it was more of a cave back then.  Caves were called stables, so we had to go underground to see it.  Then we slowly, but surely made our way back to the entrance to leave.

All in all I have to say it was an experience that I will NEVER forget!  Putting my faith that God would protect me was a giant leap for me.  Coming back to Tel Aviv and telling people where I went and how I got there; I realized how crazy it really was.  No one could believe I did that, and some of the girls were in amazement. None of my friends here have even been inside Bethlehem.  

I told Ibrahaim that it was a God thing that we met, and he responded, “Of coarse, sister!”  I truly believe that it was, and here I am alive and well 🙂

The wall surrounding Bethlehem

The wall surrounding Bethlehem

The security checkpoint leaving Bethlehem

The security checkpoint leaving Bethlehem

Entering The Nativity Church

Entering The Church of the Nativity

The star, representing the site where Jesus was born

The star, representing the site where Jesus was born

The bread shop where they bake the pita in the hot, fiery furnace

The bread shop where they bake the pita in the hot, fiery furnace

The open market in Bethlehem

The open market in Bethlehem

 p.s.  There is a picture of Ibrahaim on my previous blog, Jerusalem pics, in case you’re wondering.

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