Bethlehem is the biblical birthplace of Jesus and it’s a major pilgrimage destination of those of Christian faith and other religious beliefs. Since at least the 2nd century AD people have believed that the place where the Church of the Nativity now stands is where Jesus was born. One particular cave, over which the first Church was built, is traditionally believed to be the Birthplace itself.
It has also been the push and pull of war. After the Six-Day War of 1967, it was part of the Israeli-occupied territory of the West Bank, Bethlehem came under control of the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s.
Obviously, after making the long trip to Israel the site of Jesus’ birth was on my must-see locations list. In order to get to Bethlehem, you must pass thru the Israeli Security Border at a wall and enter the West Bank. The process is not difficult but you must have your passport.
Once across the wall you can visit the holy sites in the city. It was a very busy time when we visited because it was very close to the Christmas Season. They were even having a large Christmas concert and gathering outside the church the evening that we arrived. There was a massive Christmas tree decorated for the events leading up to the holiday.
There were huge bus loads and crowds of people at the Church. We waited a long time with some of the rudest tourists I have ever encountered. One lady was pushing so hard she almost made me fall down the stone steps that you take to the cave to see the place of Nativity. It was so weird to me to be at such a holy place and see the rudest behavior.
Once you reach the bottom of the stone stairs you can see the ornate display where the birthplace is located. You do not get much time as there are guards moving everyone along to keep the line moving. I was so glad to be able to see it but it was definitely not the experience I had envisioned.