By Heather O.
So I get my facts straight, so nobody else can get on this blog and call me stupid or ignorant or offensive before I write more about the Holy Land, here is part of the Wiki entry for Bethlehem:
Bethlehem (Arabic: بَيْتِ لَحْمٍ, Bayt Laḥm (help·info), lit “House of Meat”; Hebrew: בֵּית לֶחֶם, Beit Leḥm or Modern Hebrew Beyt Leḥem, lit “House of Bread;” Greek: Βηθλεέμ Bethleém) is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank, approximately 8 kilometers (5 mi) south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism.
The Hebrew Bible identifies Beit Lehem as the city David was from and the location where he was crowned as the king of Israel. The New Testament Gospels of Matthew and Luke identify Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The town is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, though the size of the community has shrunk due to emigration.
The city was sacked by the Samaritans in 529 AD, during their revolt, but was rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. Bethlehem was conquered by the Arab Caliphate of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb in 637, who guaranteed safety for the city’s religious shrines. In 1099, Crusaders captured and fortified Bethlehem and replaced its Greek Orthodox clergy with a Latin one. The Latin clergy were expelled after the city was captured by Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria. With the coming of the Mamluks in 1250, the city’s walls were demolished, and were subsequently rebuilt during the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
The British wrested control of the city from the Ottomans during World War I and it was to be included in an international zone under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Jordan annexed the city in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Since 1995, Bethlehem has been governed by the Palestinian National Authority.
Phew. Everybody happy now? If you have any problems with the above info, take it up with wikipedia, not me.
Bethlehem was very hot, the church of the Nativity was very crowded, the kids were hyper and overtired, which means that DH took them outside to the cloisters while I snuck my way in past like 4 tour groups to get a picture of the alleged actual place of Christ’s birth and the manger. It has the same weird feeling as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I guess I do holy differently than some. It’s just hard to feel the spirit when you have tour guide yelling, “In pairs, please! Please worship IN PAIRS!”
We went to The Shepherd’s Field, and that was nicer. Again, a more outdoor spot, with just a small church on the site that we had virtually to ourselves. Good thing, too, because Little Sister immediately ran up and started petting the velvet runner on the altar (and yes, I AM IGNORANT of what this might be called, sue me, I’m not Catholic)
We also had an awesome if a little random experience with our taxi driver, who was Palistinian. I kinda feel like I can’t share it here, though, given how much heat I have taken taking about the volatility of Israel and Palestine. He was very interesting, very open, a little odd, but I feel like if we ever took him up on his offer of help at any time (he gave us his phone number), he would totally respond and do whatever he could.
Also, we got close enough to the separation barrier on the Bethlehem side to see the graffiti on it. Impressive work. It reminded me of the the stuff I saw on the Berlin Wall. NO, I AM NOT COMPARING THE BARRIER TO THE BERLIN WALL. I’M JUST SAYING IT REMINDED ME OF IT. PLEASE DON’T ACCUSE ME OF COMPARING ISRAEL TO COMMUNISTS!!!!
It’s been a long hot day, and I have to go prepare a talk for church tomorrow. Afterwards, I’m going to download the season finale of Bones from Itunes, and snuggle down and watch TV and try to wind down. Winding down–isn’t that what the Sabbath is for? Well, in my world it is.
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