A Travellerspoint blog

The West Bank

I have waited to post about this day because it was quite overwhelming. After breakfast we left the Bedouin camp and headed off to visit the Duhaishe Camp for Palestinian refugees and then onto Bethlehem.

The camp was established in 1948/49 to temporarily house Palestinians who fled their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The conflict over returning to their homes is still unresolved so the camp is actually a small city unto itself. This is an extremely complicated situation with apparently no willingness by anyone involved to compromise in any way. Our Palestinian guide was 19 and believes, as his father and grandfather do, that they should be able to return to their exact town/home. I am confused about who controls what but the people living in this camp get aid from the UN and it feels like they are using their desire to return to a specific home as an excuse to not improve their current situation. There is nothing stopping them from leaving, getting a better education and getting work outside the camp. I will not comment further because this is purely my impression of what I heard and saw. The graffiti around the camp is very scary to an outsider but has very strong meaning to the residents. Our Israeli guide admitted afterward that he was very scared being there. Our Arab Israeli driver would not get out of the bus.

We moved on to Bethlehem and did a quick tour of The Church of the Nativity. The church houses the birthplace of Jesus and the manger where the "three kings" arrived bearing gifts. The entrance to the church is a low doorway that has its own legends. One story is that the door was installed by the Muslims during their rule to remind Christians that they were guests in the country and must bow to their hosts. An alternative explanation is that the height of the door was designed to prevent unbelievers from entering the church on horseback. Another version holds that it was to protect the Christians from their hostile neighbors. The church is divided into five naves by four rows of Corinthian pillars with pictures of the apostles on them. The names are written in Greek and Latin and many visitors have carved their own signatures over the centuries. The floor of the nave has a hole that allows you to see what remains of the Byzantine mosaics that covered the original church floor.

The Altar of the Nativity sits below a silver and gold chandelier. Stairways on either side of the main altar lead to a grotto. A fourteen-point silver star embedded in white marble indicates the birthplace of Christ. An inscription reads, Hic de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est ("Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary"). Fifteen lamps burn around the spot. Nearby is the Chapel of the Manger, where Mary placed the baby Jesus. Like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, various Christian denominations share control over different parts of the church. The grotto is under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Even in this tense environment, it was very busy with tourists from all over the world.

The drive back to Jerusalem gave us a good view of Jewish settlements abutting Palestinian controlled (not sure if that is the right term) areas.

It was great to get back to Jerusalem. The weather has turned nasty - rain, wind, cold but it has not put a damper on the group's desire to see the city.

Graffiti in the Refugee Camp

Graffiti in the Refugee Camp


Rosewood Nativity Scenes

Rosewood Nativity Scenes


Graffiti

Graffiti


More Graffiti

More Graffiti


UN Resolution

UN Resolution


Signage at entry to the camp

Signage at entry to the camp


Message

Message


Bethlehem

Bethlehem


Entry to Church of Nativity

Entry to Church of Nativity


Inside Church of Nativity

Inside Church of Nativity


Inside

Inside


The Manger

The Manger


The Manger

The Manger


Restoration inside

Restoration inside


More Inside

More Inside


The cathedral

The cathedral


Courtyard

Courtyard


Courtyard

Courtyard


Courtyard

Courtyard


Courtyard

Courtyard


Slaying dragons

Slaying dragons


Ancient Doors

Ancient Doors


Mosaic floors being restored

Mosaic floors being restored


Information about the restoration

Information about the restoration


Fabulous marble pillars within

Fabulous marble pillars within


Inside

Inside


Part of the courtyard walkway

Part of the courtyard walkway


Bethlehem

Bethlehem


Bethlehem

Bethlehem


Bethlehem

Bethlehem


Rosewood Nativity Scene for sale

Rosewood Nativity Scene for sale


Bethlehem views

Bethlehem views


More of the streets of Bethlehem

More of the streets of Bethlehem

Posted by CWalts 17:00 Archived in Israel

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Login