Dear family and friends~
After breakfast, we went to the International Center of Bethlehem, for a tour and discussion led by Hussam, a Christian employee of the center. He told us what life is like living in the West Bank. He has lived in Bethlehem all his life (28 years).
The ICB is attached to the Christmas Evangelical Lutheran Church. The pastor, Mitri Raheb, is the executive director of the center. Following Sam's message to us, we went to worship at pastor Mitri's church. The first picture is of the ceiling in that church. In Arabic calligraphy it says “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will to men.”
The service was fascinating! The service was done in Arabic for the most part. We were given a bulletin in English, and some of the songs sounded familiar, but we were lost some of the time. There was a Japanese American United Methodist group from California. Several in their group, including their pastor, spoke in English...telling about the pain in their hearts for the people of Japan. They also sang “What a friend we have in Jesus” in Japanese. Between verses, pastor Mitri read letters from their sister church in Japan. It was very touching.
After lunch, we walked through narrow streets of the Old City of Bethlehem to Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. (The lines were long, so we left and went back later.) We went to Herodium, where an archaeological dig is uncovering Herod's home on top of a man made mountain. The view was really something...you could see for miles.
Then we went to Shepherd's Field in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. We sang together in the chapel there. The second picture shows a painting in that small chapel.
Then we went to a cave where the shepherds may have sought shelter in their daily lives. We returned to the Church of the Nativity, and saw and touched the Bethlehem Star. The third picture is of the Bethlehem Star which marks the place where Jesus was born.
We've had a long day, but it's been so interesting and meaningful. The three groups that make up our tour group are really starting to meld.
Dawn and Chuck
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