A Day Off in Bethlehem

I traveled from Nablus to Bethlehem on Wednesday evening.  I had planned a short visit to a city that had no room at the inn for a young couple from Nazareth.

I was luckier.  There was a room reserved for me at the Bethlehem Inn, not far from Rachel’s Tomb.  I had hoped to visit that place, but found an obstacle in the way – a tall, impenetrable object made of concrete.  And this is what I saw from my window the next morning.

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I had heard that the Separation Barrier, also called The Wall, was creating problems for those living in Bethlehem and the many pilgrims that come to see the place where Jesus was born.  The Wall in front of the Bethlehem Inn seemed to snake around a small area – Rachel’s Tomb as I later learned.  In so doing, it isolated several families from the rest of the neighbourhood and the shops that are their livelihoods.

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I was visiting my EAPPI colleagues whose residence is located nearby, in fact, two doors away from the vehicle gate that separates Bethlehem from the access road to Jerusalem.

With my trusty guide Ulrike from Germany, I explored the graffiti statements painted on the wall.  Some of the images I saw follow, including several by the well-known artist Banksy:

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As we left this area, we encountered two other originals by Banksy — the donkey and the soldier, and the targeted dove of peace: Image

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We walked on to find the birthplace of Jesus:

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And then, the Door of Humility presented itself and in we went to view the altar and the mosaics:

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Norman Williams - Bethlehem - Ch of Nativity mosaics 1 - 130613 Norman Williams - Bethlehem - Ch of Nativity mosaics 3 - 130613

Norman Williams - Bethlehem - Ch of Nativity main altar - 130613

As we left, the carillon in the bell tower was ringing out.  I will return for a more thorough visit on a day when the crowds are few.

Norman Williams - Bethlehem - Ch of Nativity carillon - 130613

After a visit with my colleagues, I departed for the pedestrian checkpoint that they monitor four mornings a week as Palestinians cross into Israel with their work permits.  This is what it looks like as you enter the crossing:

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A lot packed into a morning and early afternoon.  And that’s all I have for you, dear follower, in Bethlehem.  More to see and do than time permits.

 

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6 Responses to A Day Off in Bethlehem

  1. sharon armstrong says:

    Totally gobsmacked by the “wall”.
    Thank you Norman,
    Sharon Armstrong
    from Emmanuel
    Keep Safe

    • I am amazed at the effort put in to locating and building the wall to encapsulate Rachel’s Tomb. And this resulted in the isolation of two families whose livelihood depends on their gift stores which are now virtually inaccessible. How can this be considered reasonable or fair? Beats me.

    • Hi Sharon,
      Thank you for following the things that I witness and experience. Yes, the wall is shocking, but the check points are more frightening in their effects to dehumanize people merely trying to visit relatives and work in a state that discriminates and does not observe its obligations under international laws.

  2. Evelyn says:

    That entrance into the checkpoint spooks me. I can’t imagine what that’d be like when it’s crowded.

    • Hi Evelyn,
      Me, too. At the end of this long cage, you go through a full height turnstile, then down a long corridor where you present your identification. Then you walk to another lineup where you put your bag on a conveyor to be scanned and you walk through an upright scanner. If you clear, you are allowed to pass through another full height turnstyle. During the time in this facility, you are being recorded on surveillance cameras. Such a relief to exit and walk to the buses. There were only about 20 people when I was there. Imagine the early mornings with hundreds of people lining up at 4 am waiting for the gates to open at 6 am, and then trying to get through with your work permit to employment in Israel. The teams in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jayyous and Tulkarm monitor the gates where they live several times a week, recording how long it takes to pass. Imagine if someone has a heart or other health problem. I’m told by colleagues that it has happened. Just imagine.

  3. Phyllis MacRae says:

    Hi Norman
    I love the idea that the huge power symbol of the Wall has become a canvass for artists and political commentary. The entrance to the checkpoint reminds me of the work of Temple Grandin on humane treatment of cattle in slaughter houses.
    I love your blogging and photos. So much learning.
    Phyllis

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