Today was a tour of Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means “house of bread”. Our local guide, Abood Dayyah, is from Bethlehem. He is a graduate of Bethlehem University and one of his majors was in tourism. He is a very personable young man, knows his history and answered our many questions. It was a very informative tour that covered history from thousands of years ago to that of today.
Biblical scholars believe Bethlehem was mentioned several different times in the Old Testament and normally mentioned as Ephrat. It is the place where it is believed Jacob buried his young wife, Rachel. And of course, Bethlehem is the place where Jesus was born. And that’s where our tour begins.
Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
This church dates back to the 4th century when it was commissioned by Emperor Constantine. It was built over the site that is traditionally believed to be the cave where Jesus was born.
Entrance to the church is through a very small door. The larger door was reduced by the Crusaders to prevent attackers from entering. The entrance is called the Door of Humility because you will need to bow to go through the door.
From there, one enters the nave where major restorations are taking place. In the nave, one can look through a trap door and see the intricate mosaic floor from the original church built in the 4th century.
The Grotto – Birthplace of Jesus
Steps lead down into the grotto. There was a very long line to get to that point. Fortunately, with us having Abood as our guide, we went right to the front of the line. Even that was congested as a long, wide line of people converged on the small entrance into the grotto.
The Grotto is where traditionally it is believed Jesus was born. Built over the spot is an altar which is shown in the featured image for today’s post. Underneath the altar is a 14 point star marking the spot of his birth.
To the side of the area where Jesus was born is the Chapel of the Manger. It is here that it is believed that Mary laid Jesus in the manger.
St. Catherine’s Church
On the property which is shared by Greek Orthodox, Armenians and Catholics is St. Catherine’s Church. One enters the church through a small courtyard with a statue of St. Jerome, who is best known for the translation of most of the Bible into Latin.
It is in this church where the midnight mass is held and is broadcast throughout the world on Christmas Eve.
Coming Soon – The Look Back Series
Sometimes there is just too much to cover from one day in places which are filled with history. In between trips, I will write articles for my “A Look Back” series. It will cover additional highlights from my travels that I was unable to include in my daily posts. Additional highlights from today’s trip will include the Separation Wall and the Bethlehem artisans.
Tomorrow it is off to Jordan to the city of Aqaba and the Red Sea. Brush up on your history from the movie, “Lawrence of Arabia”.