We made a trip to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve to share some of the experience with you.
After turning around at the checkpoint (it looked pretty discomfiting), we parked by the Mar Elias monestary, on the southern border of Jerusalem overlooking Bethlehem to take photos from afar. All of a sudden, a bus stopped and asked if we wanted to go to Bethlehem. It was a free shuttle being operated by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. Not only did they give us a free ride to the center of Bethlehem, they handed out small treats of snacks and chocolates and were waved-through the checkpoint with VIP status. The bus was full of pilgrims from all over the world.
It was amazing seeing the large and diverse crowd enter the Church of the Nativity with awe and happiness. Everyone, no matter their color, homeland or country had a huge smile of wonder, curiosity and awe as they entered and walked around the ancient Church. Some lit candles at one of the altars. Many took photos and video. Everyone was moved. This was even before the religious services that were held later that evening.
We took the shuttle bus back to Jerusalem as night fell upon Manger Square, which was full of worshippers from all around the world.
You can find more photos on our Facebook page. Please click here to follow the link.
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.