Bethlehem. Day 2

Another busy action packed day. Up, breakfasted and on our way by 8.00. Once again saying morning prayer collectively on the coach. Something surreal about praying for Israel, Jerusalem etc as we wind our way through the streets, and yet it seems so appropriate.

First visit was to a Palestinian rehabilitation centre for children with special needs, a charity supported by McCabe travel. Quite moving to see the work done there, and the same in the afternoon when we visited another Palestinian rehabilitation centre in Bethlehem. In between we called in at a cooperative which helps Palestinians to find and have employment, in woodworking, jewelry making and so on. Bought some presents there, but Alison wouldn’t let me have the £150 set of vestments!

We also went to the Shepherds field, where the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus. Interesting thought that the shepherds looked after the sheep in readiness for sacrifice and here they were being pointed to the greater lamb and the ultimate sacrifice. Again we sang in the Chapel in worship. The whole pilgrimage is being contained within the element of it being a spiritual journey.

As with yesterday many photos have been taken and gradually they’ll find their way to Facebook either in the Holy Land section or in the pictures section. Trouble is they’re on a variety of devices so I will need to collate them.

after the Shepherds field and the shopping at the cooperative we made our way to manger square and the church where the manger allegedly was. It was packed and we were pushed and jostled as folk all tried to get into the cave without waiting and so many wanted to touch the stone surrounding. I like to think that we brought some dignity for we refused to move until we’d had another act of worship in singing “Away in a manger”

disappointed with that area for it felt like a man-made area for the sake of attracting the tourists. Bethlehem itself was nothing like I’d imagined it to be as it was incredibly hilly, busy and bustling and like the rest of the day we were constantly reminded of the sad existence of the wall dividing the territories. Having seen the fall of the Berlin Wall in my lifetime it’s sad to know another has been erected, disrupting Palestinian lives and I suspect hampering peace moves thereby disrupting Israeli lives also.

oh how I’ve prayed for the peace of the whole region today. Part of our morning prayer as we sit on the bus each day has been for peace between Jew, Muslim and Christian, between Jew and Gentile, between Arab and Israeli. O Lord, raise up men and women on all sides who will have the courage to lay down arms, seek dialogue and find peace.

Today has been good, but again a mixture. The simple beauty of the shepherds field, the almost obscene splendour of the church in manger square and all surrounded by this hideous wall, representing how far we’ve moved from the one who came for ALL humanity.

tomorrow, earlier start as we have to be on the road for 7.00 am and heading for the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea scrolls caves, and the one I’ve looked forward to most, a visit to Masada with all of it’s fascinating history. It’s my birthday and what a fantastic birthday treat.

 

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