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Thursday, January 10, 2019

BIRTHPLACE OF JESUS - BETHLEHEM, PALESTINE

BIRTHPLACE OF JESUS
BETHLEHEM, PALESTINE

I was very surprised when we discovered that Bethlehem and the birthplace of Jesus was in Palestine.  Even more surprised when our tour guide in Israel informed me that he could not cross over the border into Palestine.  Holy crap I thought what is going on here.  We traveled out of Jerusalem to the West Bank and saw huge walls and a large border crossing on the Israel side.  We drove further towards Palestine and the roads got smaller and more winding.  After a few miles we stopped just outside the border and our tour guide informed us that we were going to be escorted from the border by Palestine guides.  Our Israel guide would stay back and wait for us several hours later.  The Palestine driver was young and spoke a bit of English.  He jammed through the streets like a race car driver telling us that Palestine was his country and he was proud and happy to show us his city.  He said if we had time he would like us to visit his home for some tea and local food.  I really wanted to take him up on the offer but we did not have time.  Our mission was to visit the birthplace of Jesus on Christmas Day.  Although we were a bit scared, everything on this day went well and the people of Palestine were polite, helpful and courteous.  Driving through the streets we saw more Christmas decorations on buildings than we saw in Jerusalem.  We arrived at the Church which was bustling with people eager to visit the site of Jesus's birth.  Our driver introduced us to a large and very energetic man who had the confidence of someone that owned the place.  He spoke perfect English and told me to follow him.  We did and this guy talked his way to the front of the line and then when we hit guards he pulled them aside and bingo we were taken in ahead of everyone.  Sit here and take some pictures he said before he talked to another guard and then took us right down to where you enter the room where Jesus was born.  The line was tight with a lot of pushing.  The stairs are steep and could be dangerous.  As people fought for position we dug in so we could stay in front.  It was getting a bit uncomfortable when a local man started yelling for people to stop pushing and be patient.  He got his body to the front of the steps that lead down to the room and politely began to let people pass in an orderly fashion. This was good.  Really good.  Once we got down the stairs there was a small chapel with people praying and several priests escorting people to the big star below the alter.  This is the spot where Jesus was born.  I entered and was in a different world.  So crazy but so calm.  I knelled down and kissed the star and said a prayer.  If you stay too long the priests will tell you to keep moving.  I stood up and just looked around and took it all in.  The people kissing the Star.  The people praying.  The Priests.  Wow.....I was in a bit of shock but so happy that I had visited this place.  So happy that I could say a prayer at this spot.  So happy that I was with my Wife and Daughter.  Chicken skin for sure.  We exited to find the large Palestine Man waiting for us.  He asked us how it was and took us back to the entrance where he engaged us in conversation and invited us to his home for tea.  We couldn't have tea but walked with him down the hill where he called our driver. As we waited he told us how he loved Palestine and thanked us for visiting.  He gave us his card and said if we come back he can set up special seating at the Christmas Mass because he "has connections".  And yes this guy does.  Really wanted to spend more time with him learning about his journey, family and country.  Our driver arrived and as before raced through the streets like a ninja.  He stopped at a gift shop that offered us tea and coffee.  Didn't really want to buy anything but again the people were gracious and very engaging.  Ended up buying a few trinkets and then we were whisked through the streets of Palestine and delivered safely to our Israel guide.  What an adventure I thought.  I was in Palestine and at the birthplace of Jesus.  Never in a million years did I ever think this would happen.

BORDER CROSSING ON WEST BANK OF ISRAEL AND PALESTINE

THE WEST BANK OF ISRAEL

SIGN ON LEFT READS:  THIS ROAD LEADS TO AREA "A" UNDER THE PALESTINE AUTHORITY THE ENTRANCE FOR ISRAEL CITIZENS IS FORBIDDEN.  DANGEROUS TO YOUR LIVES AND IS AGAINST THE ISRAELI LAW
OUR ISRAELI GUIDE LEFT US AND PUT US IN HANDS OF PALESTINE DRIVER






PALESTINE SIDE OF BORDER 






































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