Yesterday, Amir (our guide) dropped Natalie and me off at the West Bank Border (
Our driver was very friendly and he took us from where he picked us up at Bet Jalla to
The first basilica built here was completed in 333. That burned down in the Samaritan Revolt of 529 and was rebuilt in its present form in 565 by the Emperor Justinian I. To enter through the main door requires going through the Door of Humility built by the Turks. The door was built so low (it only goes up to about my chest) to prevent locals from rushing in on their horses, thereby forcing them to dismount and, perhaps unintentionally, paying their respects as they bow to enter.
The highlight of course is touring around the grotto beneath the basilica which enshrines the site where Jesus is believed to have been born. The exact spot is marked by a 14-point silver star set in the marble floor under an Armenian Apostolic altar. The other altar in the crypt, about 15 feet away, is the site which marks where Mary laid the newborn baby in the manger and that’s maintained by the Roman Catholics. There was an Eastern European tour group down there and they were singing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” in their native tongue which added even more reverence to the atmosphere.
It’s difficult to convey what I felt when I went down the stairs and see the exact spot where Jesus was born. Words can’t describe it but for sure I will never forget it. It’s still difficult for me to fathom that I just saw the actual place which I’ve been told about countless times. It never really seemed real and from now on hearing the stories and attending midnight mass at Christmas will have a newer and more profound meaning to me.
I was nervous about going to the West Bank – the only thing I knew about it was from the violent images on T.V. and someone told me it’s like
There’s really not much to do in the