Bethlehem And The Journey Of Faith
Bethlehem, a city of pilgrims. They come to renew their faith. A city where others discover their faith. And for others, it is the connection with history. In Bethlehem, history is alive. It is like the past is there today and today is a day so long ago. This is a rich city to explore. Within Bethlehem you will find the richness of faith and even some local folklore at the Milk Ghroto. Bethlehem is rich in Holy Sites. So join us as we explore Bethlehem, Israel.
You have arrived in the Holy Land and Bethlehem is your first stop. Bethlehem is a ancient and holy city. It’s most major Holy Site is The Church of The Nativity. The Church of The Nativity is located in the center of the ancient city of Bethlehem. It is revered world-wide as the birth place of Jesus. It is profoundly beautiful and very ornate. The gold with-in it’s walls shines and glimmers from the reflection of the light. Built in the year of 325 AD, it is one of the oldest churches in continuous use in the world. Queen Helena had the church constructed during the Byzantine Empire. Adjacent to the church is a Monastery built in the shape of a wooden cross. It is a simple building, peaceful without any frills. A beautiful garden is connected for prayer. It’s simplicity stands out when compared with it’s very famous and ornate neighbor. On the other side is the beautiful Church of St. Catherine.
The next stop is the Milk Grotto. It is here that the Virgin Mary took refuge with Baby Jesus during the slaughter of the innocent babies. In this grotto she found safety from the soldiers of Herod. It is also here that local folklore says that she spilled a drop of milk on the floor of the cave, turning the stone white. This is said to have created the chalky white stone. People from around the world who believe in the amazing fertility power of this stone, come here, to the Milk Grotto. They come to scrape a little of the stone and latter a mother to be consumes this fertility powder. This is thought to guarantee the fertility of the mother-to-be.
Not to be left out is the Old City of Bethlehem. It is located in the center of the modern city. Take a walk through the narrow streets of this ancient city. Stroll along the old cobblestone streets and narrow alleys. Enjoy the ancient ornamental stone houses that leap out from the past. Here the past is still alive as these ancient homes are current homes of many modern Bethlehemites. Continue on your walk down “Star Street” and you will come to the site of the Wells of King David.
King David’s Wells are located on King David street, just off Manger Square. In the square are three Great Cisterns marking the site where David’s army broke through enemy lines. The Philistine army was a formidable power but David’s army crashed through their lines to bring him water after the King prayed these famous words. “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem.” This historic site is a walk back into yesterday.
Just east of the city is the town of Beit Sahour. It is here that the shepherds watched over their sheep. Since ancient time, these fields have marked the spot where the shepherds saw the Star and followed it to the cave where Jesus was born. Access to this cave is through the Church of the Nativity. As you go downstairs below the sanctuary of the church, you will see this most Holy Site. This site is ran by the Roman Catholic Church. Be sure to see the ancient Byzantine stone mosaic that commemorates this site. Near by is the alternative site that is administered by the Greek Orthodox Church. There is a small Greek Orthodox Church on this site. The walls of the Greek Orthodox Church are home to many icons showing the lives of the saints.The Greek Orthodox Church has a fairy tale garden complete with beautiful Olive Trees that are over 2,000 years old. This garden is beautiful in it’s simplicity.
Herodium is a volcano-like hill that is located near the city of Ancient Bethlehem. It is here on top of Herodium, that King Herod the Great built his mighty fortress and beautiful palace. Herodium is almost a half mile above sea level. Archaeologists have found a site that is believed to be the burial site of King Herod the Great. This ancient fortress is more than 2,000 years old. The ancient fortress is a fascinating site to explore.
Another amazing treasure near Bethlehem, just to the east, is Mar Saba Greek Orthodox Monastery. Located in the middle of the desert, just east of the city, Mar Saba is an amazing place to visit. This is a Monastery cut out of rock and it is intriguing to explore. This is especially true for men who can actually visit the whole site. Due to the customs and restrictions of the Greek Orthodox faith, women are only able to enter a tower located just inside the entrance gate. This Monastery is currently in use, so respectful silence is preferred. Even with the restrictions for women, the view is amazing. It is one of the Ten Best Sites around Bethlehem and a valuable asset to any itinerary.
Bethlehem has three major museums within the modern city of Bethlehem. The International Nativity Museum of Bethlehem is one of the most complete museum showing cribs from around the world. It is the most complete collection in the world. Each crib is complete is with the history and culture of the it’s native country. This is an astonishing collection and will amaze you. This unique museum is located in the historical Salesian Convent and Monastery of Bethlehem. It is on the ground floor of the Salesian convent. The convent also runs Cremisan, a small vineyard of tasty grapes. It is located on the slopes of a nearby hill. It is a beautiful vineyard. Be sure to pick up a bottle of Cremisan’s wine. The wine is excellent and it will keep you in memory of your many adventures of Bethlehem.
Bad Museum for Olive Oil production can be found in the Old City of Bethlehem. The building that is home to the museum dates back to the 19th century. In the museum are many relics found in the area by archaeologists, as well as the complete process of making Olive Oil. You will also find the many uses that Olive Oil is used for highlighted. Some of these uses are cooking oil, lamp oil, medicine, food, soap, and cosmetics. It is a unique and educational museum.
The next unique museum is the Palestinian Heritage Center. It aims to preserve and promote Palestinian Cultural Heritage and art. The Palestinians of Bethlehem are well known for their beautiful embroidery. There is a small gift shop on site where you can buy fair trade items from the Palestinian artists around Bethlehem and the refugee camps near by. The woman in the different villages bring their best work to sell in the Heritage Center. It is an amazing place to explore and purchase native crafts of Bethlehem.
About 2 1/2 miles out of downtown Bethlehem is Al Khader Village. It is also called the Village of St. George. There you can visit the ancient Solomon Pools. These pools consists of three huge water cisterns made of local stone. These cisterns have provided water for the region for centuries. The water they give is extremely good. It tastes amazing. Adjacent to the pools is ,. Burak Castle is an Ottoman Turkish fortress. This castle dates to the 17th century. Also in downtown Al Khader Village is the Church of St. George. St. George is an Greek Orthodox Church. St. George is said to protect the Palestinian people of the Bethlehem area.
You will also want to make your last stop to see the wall that has been started around the Bethlehem area. There is a site where you can view the work of Banksy, an English graffiti artist. His work is know the world over. Much of his work is political in nature. One of his most famous works of graffiti is that of a Christmas tree surrounded by the security wall. Tourists from around the world come to view his work.
Whether you are coming to Bethlehem to discover your inner self, to expand your faith, make a Holy Pilgrimage, or to discover history, you will need more than a little time to explore the likes of this amazing city. This is a place with many intriguing sites. Here you will find living history. As you are wandering the different places in Bethlehem, take time for lunch. Their pita bread is beyond delicious. You will find many sidewalk cafes around the city. The food is awesome. The fruit and veggies are picked fresh each day. Make this the time you begin planning your Bethlehem adventure.