Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Holy Land Tour Day 10

Ray, Di, Marcia Judy and Helen and the rest of our
group gathered around the birthplace of Jesus

As the pilgrims made the short journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (about 20 minutes in traffic!) we sang Christmas Carols in preparation for our arriving at the birthplace of Jesus. The Church of the Holy Nativity Bethlehem had a queue (of course) but our Palestinian guide, Ramsi, said we were very lucky to be so near to the front of the queue from the start.

This ancient church is jointly run by the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. The Greeks here have the largest section and you enter the cave of Jesus' birth, which is located under the main sanctuary and to the side. The spot is marked with a silver star and a shrine (very Greek) marks the spot where he laid in the manger. At the time of our visit the church is almost  completely enclosed within with scaffolding. This is to do some preliminary photography on the roof which is leaking. The scaffolding will be removed in about a week and then the three churches will begin negotiating how and who pays for the restoration. The last restoration was done in the 15th Century and was sponsored by King Edward IV of England. The 21st Century Restoration should begin after Easter next year.

Modern fresco in the Church at Shepherds field
Just about 2 kms away from Manger Square is the church at Shepherds Field. The modern church that stands adjacent to the ruins of a Byzantine Monastery was donated by the people of Canada. The Church has terrific acoustics and the pilgrims tested these with some more Christmas carols.

From just outside this church you can look out over the small valley and see Jerusalem on the hill - just like on a Christmas card with the shepherds in the foreground!! 

We were then given an opportunity to buy souvenirs from Bethlehem which most seemed keen to do because this supports the minority Christians in Palestine.

On our return journey today we come up to the massive concrete wall that divides Palestinian territory (Bethlehem) from Israel. At the checkpoint before entering Jerusalem we had a serious looking Israeli soldier with his machine gun poised till the bus was ready to move on after passport checks. Graffiti on the massive concrete wall adjacent to the checkpoint on the Palestinian side read "to resist is to exist".

The Garden Tomb

Back in Jerusalem this afternoon after yet another lovely falafel we visited the Garden Tomb not far from our hotel. This is a little controversial because after all the 14th Station (tomb) is traditionally at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre inside the old city. The Garden Tomb which is staffed by English people purports to be the place of Jesus' burial and resurrection. The case is very convincing although we don't think our Israeli guide is all that convinced. It has the great advantage of being situated in a beautiful garden where the pilgrims gathered in an outdoor chapel and celebrated the Holy Eucharist to end our pilgrim sites in and around Jerusalem.

Most pilgrims then headed for the Old City market to do last minute shopping.

Mass in the Garden - Ranji Lal (in the
background)  read the Gospel

Watercolour of St Georges' Cathedral -view
from our hotel. Painting by Ray

Thank you for your comments - please keep them rolling in.


  1. Was it a special bread used for the Eucharist?

    It's hard to believe that the pilgrimage part of your trip is almost over. I hope you have time to continue this diary through the rest of your trip.

  2. I've enjoyed following your journey to places that mean so much to Christians. Grace Rasiah