Today, Bethlehem is located in Occupied Territory of Palestine...
What does it take for a person to visit the place of Jesus' birth?
In order to travel the 6 miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem can take up to an hour...
The other week, a group of women staying at the Augusta Victoria Lutheran guest house wanted to go to Bethlehem. I agreed to travel with them.
We took a bus into the Old City of Jerusalem, then changed busses in order to travel the 6 miles... only we went past Bethlehem to Beit Jala in order to by-pass the Bethlehem checkpoint. Beit Jala is one of three primarily Christian communities in the area. Almost one hour later we were in Bethlehem and walked through the souk on our way to Manger Square and the Nativity Church.
It was a hot Saturday... and when 10 women walked through the souk, market place, it was a long journey! One stopped here... another there... now where did she go? Some purchases were made along the way! All is good!
In the Church of the Nativity, as there were many groups, wanting to go into the cave and see the place where Jesus was born, we too joined the line. At long last, our time arrived and we descended into the cave. For me, I had been here several times, I feel the sacredness of the place, for others there was a moment of awe and amazement as they were finally standing in the cave and place of Jesus' birth. It is a pilgrimage of faith to arrive at this place.
After some ice lemonade with mint, and something to cool down, we took the return journey back to Jerusalem. On the bus, going back through Beit Jala, at the checkpoint, all local people had to leave the bus to have their passports checked... we were allowed to stay on the bus... 15 minutes later, they rejoined the bus and we were able to continue the journey.
In writing this, I am challenged, next time, I will get off the bus as well... if one is checked, all should be checked!
This week, people were detained at the airport and not permitted into entering Israel... not permitted into the country, means they were not permitted to go to Bethlehem and visit the place where Jesus was born... and sooooo much more.
Why is a place where the prince of peace was born is there so much unrest?