Today was our first full day in Israel and we went to where it all began.
On our way to Bethlehem we stopped at Herodian, the mountain that Herod the Great moved, literally, to where he wanted it, in order to be buried there. He may not have been the greatest king to the Jews but he had a lot of amazing building projects! We had a beautiful view of Bethlehem and Jerusalem just 6 miles away. We also saw actual shepherds keeping watch over their flock just outside the city of Bethlehem, and saw how it would be all too perfect for the Angels to appear to them!
Next we made our way to the Shepherds Fields, a church dedicated to the Shepherds who first heard the Good News of great joy and sand "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing" and read from Luke 2. From the shepherds mountain we could see a clear distinction of the Apartheid Wall/Security Wall that separates Jerusalem from the Palestinian side. Bethlehem is the largest, Christian, Palestinian city and from Herodian you can see how difficult it is for the Israelis and Palestinians to live peacefully.
Next we were invited to a wood shop that supports local carvers of Olive Wood - and among other souvenirs we bought a gift for the church! :)
After this we got a new guide for seeing the Church of the Nativity. Our regular guide is a Christian who was born inside the walls of Old Jerusalem and has lived in New Jerusalem for many years. Since he is not a Palestinian, and Bethlehem is in Palestinian territory (just 6 miles away), he could not go inside the church with us. Our new tour guide was great, but it really puts a new perspective on the issues between Israel and Palestine as we watch them from afar in the United States.
We did see the place where it is believed that Jesus was born and where Mary laid him in a manger. The Church of the Nativity had an Armenian, Greek Orthodox and Catholic Church that all claim rights to the same building. Needless to say, it makes any church issues we might encounter seem SO MUCH more manageable!
We finished the day by going to the Church of St Peter at Gallicantu where Jesus was imprisoned the night before he was crucified and where Peter denied knowing him, three times, just as predicted.
Our days continue to be very full and we are quite often exhausted, but it is worth it!
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