EASTERN EUROPE and THE HOLY LAND day 8

Bethlehem being over in the ‘West Bank’ I found had changed tremendously over the past 38yrs since my last visit.  Now, it’s a little different having to go through ‘security checkpoints’.   Its not an issue for us Pilgrims.  We have another wonderful driver whom I called ‘George’.   That was his idea,  his name being a little difficult to pronounce,  he suggested I call him  George  ( as in George Clooney,  he thought that he resembled my idol )    (I smile )

At times the day was a little warm to hot and George always made sure he had ample supply of cold water in the coach refrigerator.  Not only cold water,  George would bring fresh grapes from his house garden  for my group each day.

With the name of our hotel being ‘Saint Gabriel’  one felt protected and safe and it was that indeed. . We are inside the West Bank,  a wonderful hotel,  personable staff, excellent meals .

For most Christians who go to Bethlehem their visit is not complete without  entering the Church of The Nativity. Built over the stable where history shows us Jesus was born.  To enter into this Church one must bend low to enter through the Door of Humility and then descend into the Grotto of The Holy Manger where a silver star on the floor marks the spot where Christ was born.

My visit to Bethlehem this time brought back memories of me celebrating my 20(something) birthday with my Jewish friends back in the mid ‘70’s.  Young in those days,  sitting cross legged on the floor covered in multi coloured cushions in a wine bar.

Our Pilgrimage continues the following day to Ein Karem the birthplace of St John the Baptist.

We continue on by coach to visit the IsraelMuseum and view the Second Temple  ( 2000 sq mtr scale model of Jerusalem  as it was in the time of Jesus)

Interesting story about this model of ancient Jerusalem.   It was commissioned in 1966 by Hans Kroch, who was the owner of a hotel in Israel.  He had this scale model commissioned in memory of his son Yaakov,  an Israeli Defence soldier  who was killed in the Israeli War of Independence in 1948.  In 2006 the model was sawn into 1,000 pieces and later reassembled to where it is today.