Good morning, friends! Wow. I meant to write this post some time ago and just haven’t been able to. We have enjoyed having Christmas in Oregon with Shawn’s family, but its been FULL. We haven’t been here in so long and there’s been lots of catching up to do! That, and then did I mention that Cohen is cutting teeth? Because he is. Shawn sang “all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” to him on Christmas Eve and wouldn’t you know the next morning he’d cut his first one? And then he’s spent the last two days working on the second bottom tooth. So the rest of my time that’s not been spent talking or playing games has been spent administering cold things to chew on and concentrated infant motrin. He’s been fussy, but that tooth is so stinkin’ cute I don’t even care! As soon as its big enough to photograph without us seeming like those parents, I will post a pic.
Our last day in Palestine, we had sort of a free day. Cohen and I had missed the afternoon shoot at Manager Square and the Church of the Nativity, so we wanted to go there. Shawn had to do some taped interviews in the morning for the documentary so I decided to do some laundry. Everyone smokes there and between that and Cohen’s puking, pretty much all of our clothes needed washed. I hate packing dirty stuff. So to make a long story short, I started laundry around 10am and literally didn’t finish until we left for the airport at 4:30pm. How is that possible? No, we didn’t wear 18 outfits each everyday…it was only 1 load of laundry…BUT the washer didn’t spin out, so at the end of its cycle it was still full of water and I had to ring out each piece of clothes by hand then when I checked on the dryer an hour later, it became apparent that it does not actually get hot. So I ended up hanging our clothes out to dry on the roof. Which probably would’ve worked if it had been warmer than 50 degrees. So anyway, we left at 1pm to see the church while the clothes were “drying”…really, I could’ve had a few more hours in the square if I had just succumbed to the idea that I was going to be packing wet (although not pukey or smokey!) clothes. So the moral of the story is….if you go to Palestine, see the sites and just take home that stale smoke smell. Its better in the end than mildew.
Even with the slight laundry debacle looming, the Church of the Nativity was the most amazing thing we saw. Built over the stable believed to be where Jesus was found by the shepherds, it was completely captivating and old and full of mystery. I wanted to share with you some of the photos I took.
The square was just starting to fill up when we arrived and it was teeming with people by the time we left…this is the first Christmas tourism had come back to Bethlehem and everyone was so excited!
These women are huddling in front of the door into the church- its tiny! you can see the actual door better in the above photo.
Here’s a view from of the door from the inside. You can see how small it is. I guess at one time it was larger and you can see where they built it in with wood. Our friend said that it was built smaller to keep the Romans from charging into the church on horseback.
The original floor had been built over.
Its gorgeous tile…you can see what it looked like here.
This is the view from when you first walk in…there are actual services going on and you can see ahead how ornate everything is! It was hard to get pics because of all of the lights hanging low, so bear with me, ok? I will post some of Shawn’s awesome pics somewhere so you can see more clear ones.
In this area here there was actually a priest and a nun. I refrained from taking their pics!
This was one of my favorite areas inside because it wasn’t so ornate…this felt like what I had imagined..old and magical.
We went down in these tiny tunnels that looked like caves and were in the ground. You can see everyone crowding around to get a pic of the area set up to honor Jesus’ birth in the spot he was believed to have been found. Stables were actually underground in caves then.
Here’s what the shrine looked like
We came out of the caves into another area of the church that is newer and gorgeous! There was an orchestra practices for a Christmas concert. This whole church was bigger than you can imagine. We just kept going and going and there seemed to be no end to it!
Adjacent to the orchestra was another place to stop and honor Jesus.
There were tons of more caves from there…none of the pics turned out but this one since most of the areas were very dimly lit by candles. Lots of saints and Bible translators (early ones) were buried in the caves. It was not like something you’d see in a church in the States, trust me!
One such Bible translator was whose body we had passed, was also remembered in a statue just outside the church in a courtyard.
another view of the gorgeous courtyard
one more view from outside
Shawn and I have this travel book called something like “1000 Places to See Before You Die” or something catchy like that. It lists one of the places as Bethlehem at Christmastime. Although we missed Christmas by 2 days, I think I can agree with the book and recommend it. We actually want to go back again and see more. If you get the chance, Go! Don’t let the news media scare you into not going.
Okay friends. More later. Love you!