Bethlehem at Christmas

by Steve
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A picture of Manger Square and Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine.

While we thought we would be riding donkeys in Jericho, the cold weather and prediction of rain made us think differently.  So it was onward to Bethlehem with a couple stops along the way.

Qaser El-Yahud – The Site of Jesus’ Baptism

It is in the Jordan River Valley east of Jericho, where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.  The baptism site is the third holiest site for the Christian world.  It is also the spot where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on their way to conquering Jericho. The river is very narrow and very muddy.  The river serves as the border between Israel and Jordan and that’s where the modern day problems come in.

Qaser El-Yahu - Site of Jesus' Baptism

Qaser El-Yahu – Site of Jesus’ Baptism

These river banks were once a war zone between Israel and Jordan.  It is still littered with land mines and much of the land is fenced off and monitored by Security Forces.  Both sides claim their land as to where Jesus and John the Baptist met.

Most of this area has been opened to visitors in different phases since 2002.  Jordan’s side has many churches which have been built in recent years.

St. John the Baptist Church - Jordan River Valley

St. John the Baptist Church – Jordan River Valley

The Israeli side has churches that are off limits because of the mines as can be seen in the picture below as well as the Security Forces surveillance tower noted earlier.

Qaser El-Yahu

Qaser El-Yahu

This site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.

While this historical religious landmark is very peaceful and relaxing to visit, it is an interesting contrast as one drives along a road with high fencing, mine fields on each side and churches that cannot be visited because of the mines that surround them.

The Inn of the Good Samaritan

The Inn of the Good Samaritan is located along the main road between Jericho and Jerusalem.  While the road is a modern one today, this route dates back to the First Temple period which ended in 587 BC with the destruction of Solomon’s Temple.

Located on this site are the remains of the Inn.  The one made famous in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Part of the complex also includes the outdoor Good Samaritan Church.

The Inn of the Good Samaritan

The Inn of the Good Samaritan and the outdoor church

Also located on the site is a museum which includes many mosaics from ancient churches that were discovered in the area.

The Inn of the Good Samaritan Museum

A mosaic at the Inn of the Good Samaritan Museum

Bethlehem – Manger Square

Afternoon brought us to Bethlehem, the city that will broadcast its mass from St. Catherine’s Church at midnight.  Close to the Church of the Nativity and the grotto, where it is said that Jesus was born, is Manger Square.  It is here that people without tickets to attend the mass, people like us, will be watching the mass on a big screen to be a part of the Christmas celebration.

Also located in the square is their nativity scene.

Manger Square - Nativity Scene

Manger Square – Nativity Scene

This post is being written as we approach the midnight hour.  It has been raining and it is cold.  We are going to attempt to be part of the crowd in Manger Square.  I’ll let you know tomorrow what happened later as we head into Christmas Day here in Bethlehem.  Until then, Merry Christmas to everyone!!!

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