Bethlehem through the looking glass

My mum and me joined a group tour to visit the Holy Land and Bethlehem was in the itenary. 

Bethlehem has valuable heritage and history going back thousands of years. 

Here the fabric of time remains unchanged … the past, present and the future all seem to be together and are experienced at the same time. 

Being the birthplace of Jesus makes this small town a very significant place in the world.

The Entrance to Bethlehem…. 

Entrance gate to Bethlehem

This is the arched entrance gate to Bethlehem. It is also known as the ‘Old Gate: Qoos Az-Zarara,’ which is apparently the Qoos (arch) through which Mary and Joseph entered Bethlehem, before Mary gave birth to Jesus.

Today this is a long winding narrow lane flanked by residences that leads us out of this gate to meet the old souq (market).

The Church of the Nativity

The manger cave in which Jesus was born was preserved by building a church over it known as The Church of the Nativity. It is one of the oldest churches in the world.

The Church of the Nativity

It was beautiful sunny weather during our visit to the Church. Fortunately the place was not very crowded and we waited our turn patiently, filled with excitement.

After all you don’t get an opportunity every time to wish Jesus happy birthday personally 🙂

14 point silver star marking the place where Jesus was born

The  Church of the Nativity has a crypt beneath—the Grotto of the Nativity where tradition states that Jesus of Nazareth was born.

We went below to the crypt and there I saw a silver star which marked the birthplace of Jesus. There was a priest standing near the Grotto who asked me to quickly bow and kiss the star.
After paying our respects we could stand a little away and pray.

The silver star bears the words “Hic de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est” (Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary).

Our tour guide told us an interesting piece of information that struck me.

He mentioned that the 14 points represent the 14 generations of Jesus from Abraham to David. The star also represent the 14 stations of the cross walked by Jesus before being crucified.

View of the Palestine neighborhood

We stayed in Bethlehem for 3 nights as we had numerous other religious sites to visit.

Bethlehem is a Palestinian town and I always imagined the place to be war torn, battered and deserted.

On the contrary the place was bustling like any small town with people going about their business.Not one day did we feel insecure or threatened.

We celebrated mass in the adjoining church of St Catherine where I did the reading from the Bible.

Visiting the place where Jesus was born and getting to see and touch the silver star was one of the highlights of my journey.

  1. Floor Mosaics, now preserved under wooden floor boards, dating back to the period of Constantine.
  2. Reading during mass.
  3. The UNESCO plaque present at the Church of the Nativity, declaring it as a world heritage site.
  4. The church’s bell tower.

An afterthought

Visiting and staying in Palestine made a positive change in my perspective about the people and the region.This is the best part about travel.

Visiting the places associated with the birth of Jesus makes the celebration of Christmas more meaningful for me.

Merry Christmas 🎄🌟 😇 👑

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