Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bethlehem

Thursday May 7 2009. This morning I decided to walk into Bethlehem. I asked around and found a Catholic brother who wanted to go this morning. So, we started off. Of course, he has a map, but it's a map to the Old City. We start asking people. And someone says to take this road. I see this huge wall ahead of me, gray concrete. With lovely pictures on it. We walk up a road and then the guard tells us there is another entrance which we finally find. We make our way to the check point. There are wood and plexiglass booths for the soldiers. Each soldier persons a booth that monitors both an exit from Israel and an entrance to Israel. Of course there are tons of people queuing up to come into Jerusalem to work. We finally get the attention of one of the soldiers and he says we should go through the blue door. Now, I had been told that all we had to do to get to Manger Square was to walk on the main road about 45 minutes. I have to tell you that about every five minutes we had to stop and ask someone how to get there. We decided to walk through the Old City, which really wasn't very old. I was expecting something like the Medinas in Arab cities I have visited: windy narrow alleys, with fast motorbikes whizzing by. The buildings seemed newish, which may be because they are all Jerusalem limestone. We went through one tunnel. But is was really short. There wasn't the inpenertrable maze I was expecting. We kept asking and asking and finally made it to Manger Square. On the Square, they were building a huge platform. The Pope is coming and so they are readying the place for him. We went into the Visitors' Center and had a long conversation with the women there. They talked about how awful the wall is, how they are not able to go to Jerusalem at all except at Christmas (for the Christians). Sometimes a wife will get a pass to visit family there and her husband
After that, we walked to the Church of the Nativity. We finally found the entrance which is a door about four feet high. We walked in and found ourselves in the sanctuary. There were places in the floor with wooden doors that were open. Below were the mosaics that were the original floor. The floor we were standing on was stone. Since the original floor was about three feet lower, I then understood why the door was so short. The sanctuary is a bit disappointing. It is huge, but not very elaborate. We saw an entrance to the area below the chancel and went down. There was the spot where Jesus was born. I realized down there that we had come down the exit side. In a lower area were some priests and nuns singing. I recognized Adeste Fideles. We came back and then wandered a bit. One of the women at the visitor's center had given us the name of a schwarma place. And so we went in search of it. Although we asked directions, we were on the wrong road. We wandered around for almost an hour in search of the place and never found it. No schwarma for me! We got a taxi back to the check point (I would have walked back, but the poor Catholic brother was exhausted).

I'm not terribly happy with my photos. I hope to get better ones for the rest of the trip. Still no luggage.