Bethlehem - behind the wall

Bethlehem Travel Blog

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Shepherd's Field - where the angel came to the shepherds and told them to visit the manger

We'd heard very mixed things about the city of Bethlehem.  Obviously, it was an important city to visit on a "pilgrimage" to the Middle East, but the city of Bethlehem lies beyond a great wall that separates Israel from the land known as the Palestinian Territory.  Although the Palestinian Territory is in Israel, going there means going through a checkpoint where you have to show your passport...and if you're Israeli or Palestinian, you'd better have a darned good reason why you're crossing that border.  It's sad really, after all it is one country but these are the times we live in.  We'd heard and read it was unsafe to travel to Bethlehem, but after we arrived in Jerusalem the locals (Jewish and otherwise) convinced us that we should go.

Church of the Nativity
  Since this was the Sabbath, we were unsure if we could find a bus to take us to the border (cars can't cross the border and it costs a small fortune to take a taxi a few miles to the wall).  Luckily, the muslim section of Jerusalem was not shut down, so we hopped on a bus for some 25 cents and went to the border.

We were able to walk through the checkpoint by just waving our American passports - people trusted us just find over there.  Once on the Palestinian side of the wall, there were rows of taxis waiting to take visitors to the biblical sites.  Apparently, not many people were as "brave" as we were.  For a reasonable amount, the driver promised to take us to Shepherd's Field and also the Church of the Nativity, and we could stay at either site as long as we wanted to.

The traditional manger site
  As we drove, he told us about the wall and how things were not very well from an economical standpoint on their side of the wall.  Very few tourists hurt their economy badly, and unfortunately it showed.

We arrived at Shepherd's Field and ventured onto the site.  Of course, there was a church there, but the church had lovely murals inside depicting the events that took place there some 2000 years ago.  From there, we were driven up and down through narrow streets to the Church of the Nativity.  Our driver was very friendly and told us many stories about the area.  When we arrived at the church, we found it interesting that the main entrance was a little door that went up to my waist, and that we had to duck to get in.  It was an amazing church on the inside though, very big with lots of color.  We went downstairs and saw the site where the manger once stood, the manger that Jesus Christ was born in.  Another powerful site to take in!

After that, our driver took us back to the wall, where we crossed back over.  The guards were checking bags at the gate, but waved Cathy and I through.  Once on the other side, we took the bus back to Jerusalem.

jgatus85 says:
I am visiting Bethlehem next month and although I feel a bit uneasy about the stories I've read, I am still going because it's such a tremendous place!
Posted on: Apr 13, 2011
Nzelvis says:
Maybe your tour group was overprotective...even the Palistinians are very friendly people.
Posted on: Jan 08, 2008
kingelvis14 says:
You are young and probably didn't really consider the danger involved on your visit to Bethlehem. When I was on my tour in 2001, our guide made our group stay close together and wouldn't allow us to tarry on the streets at all. Very unsettling.
Posted on: Jan 07, 2008
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Shepherds Field - where the angel…
Shepherd's Field - where the ange…
Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity
The traditional manger site
The traditional manger site
Mural inside the church at Shepher…
Mural inside the church at Shephe…
photo by: cotton_foam