Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday, 16 January 2017: Bethlehem

Today we explore “the little town of Bethlehem.” We begin the day visiting sites commemorating the birth of Jesus – the Church of the Nativity and Shepherd’s Field. We will also visit the DIYAR International Center, where we will enjoy lunch and a special talk led by Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb. This afternoon we will meet with local dignitaries and organizations to gain a deeper understanding of the current political and cultural situation in Palastine. This evening we will enjoy dinner with our guest speaker, Rev. Dr. Robert Smith, Academic Director for University of Notre Dame at Tantur Ecumenical Institute, before returning to our Bethlehem hotel. (B, L, D)

Just your typical day in the Holy Land.  Went to some field where the SHEPHERDS WERE TENDING THEIR FLOCKS BY NIGHT.  No big deal.  Just a cave where they once HUNG OUT, trying to catch some Zzzzs.  The real field.  The real cave.  The real deal.

As if that wasn't enough, we visited the Church of the Nativity, which has about 100 different lights and incense holders hanging from the ceiling (causing me to constantly duck), and ornate paintings and mosaic tiles.  The entire church in under renovation, so there was a lot of scaffolding, but God bless them for trying to preserve what was so amazing from so long ago.  Oh, and did I mentioned that we visited the PLACE OF JESUS's BIRTH!?  Oh yeah.  DId that, too.  It was fascinating to pair the visitation of his death yesterday, only to follow up with the place of his birth today. I have so much more to write on this topic, but it's 1123pm and my eyes aren't even open as I type this.  Just know that kneeling at the manger spot, as the holy visitors did long ago, was enough to bring this Christmas story to an entirely new level for these gals!  And singing Christmas tunes with poignant words while around the grotto?  Indescribable.

The rest of the day was spent listening to a bunch of incredibly smart, educated, and forward-thinking individuals who highlighted the many plights and struggles of the Palestinian people.  THeir main message is that not all people from Palestine should be considered violent and full of terror.  They revealed a very human side to a country in constant conflict.  While it was a long time to sit (three presentations in the afternoon and one following dinner) the knowledge gained can only shape this pastor-to-be's responses and educational moments in her parish to come.

We have a BIG day ahead of us tomorrow, and we've barely unpacked out fourth and final hotel room.  Headed to bed in this not so little town of Bethlehem as the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.  

No comments: