Day 7 - Bethlehem

Our morning began a little later this day -- a wonderful day of Sabbath rest. And on day 7. How appropriate! I could not hear the prayer call here, so although I did wake up early out of habit, I went back to sleep.

We left the hotel at around 9 or 9:30 to go to church. It was a short walk, although steep, and the weather was great, so we all walked together. I saw this place on the way:

We were a little early for the service (or maybe we missed the early ones), so we had a little while to look around the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square.
We entered the church through the older section called the Basilica of the Nativity, which is the Greek Orthodox side. It is the oldest portion of the church. Wikipedia said some of it dates back to 565.

The mosaic floor in the picture is a section of the original floor underneath the existing floor.
Adjoining this Basilica is the Roman Catholic side, which is called the Church of St. Catherine. As you can tell it is much newer.

We wandered around a bit in the square while we waited for church to start. I went to this store and found several of the olive wood souvenirs for my friends and family.

Then it was time for church. We went early since we weren't sure how crowded it would be. But everyone shows up at the last minute, like at our church, so we didn't have to do that.
 The bell tower. You can hear the bells in the first video.
 The rules of the church.


Recording I made while we were waiting:
And then this video is during one of the songs:

After the service was over, we all met back together in the square. I found these signs there, which show the changes in the land of Palestine since 1946. One shows the territory change and the other talks about the wall being built by Israel around the West Bank.

 From Manger Square we wandered to the Milk Grotto Church (honored as the site where Mary weaned Jesus) and on down the oldest streets of the city.

We ate some lunch and then met our bus to travel to two sites.
First we drove to the Herodian, one of Herod's fortresses. I was kind of wishing I wasn't wearing my church clothes, but it wasn't too bad--and I looked nicer for the pictures. The fortress was on top of a mountain, and provided a great view of the area.

Our next stop was the Shepherds' Field, at least one of them (the Franciscan one). There was a beautiful chapel here commemorating the angels' announcement to the shepherds. It had amazing acoustics--or our group should have been paying for our trip by singing.

The bus driver dropped some of us off at Manger Square, either to explore more without having to climb that hill or to visit the nativity grotto. The line was too long once the service was over to visit it while we were there earlier.

Kerri and I wandered around a bit and then headed back for dinner. This is the usual set up for dinner, a buffet with hot items on one side and all sorts of salads on the other. They served us delicious soup as a first course each time.