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Old 19th November 2015, 14:07   #1
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Default Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)

Last year December, I had been to Bethlehem in Palestine/West Bank while on my business trip to Jerusalem. For some reasons I made the mistake of saving the photos in my office laptop and till now was not able to re-size and upload the photos without breaking at least 5-6 Company Security Policies.

In between life became a lot busier and Bangalore traffic plus roads isnít helping either. Finally I decided to do something as a lot of people used to inquire me about travelling to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Bethlehem Trip Ė

In December last year, just before the Christmas I decided to visit Bethlehem no matter what and against all the security/travel advice from colleagues and company. Bethlehem is one place I just couldnít let go off and most frustrating thing was it was only 8 KMS from Jerusalem Central. It was also tricky situation in Israel as the war which started in July and lasted till September had made the environment on both sides hostile. There were absolutely no tourists around that time who were visiting Bethlehem. So I going alone was a bit risky.

On a Cold December Friday, woke up early and set off at 7 AM to Bethlehem even though my mind was saying no and heart was saying what can happen at the most. So it was a decision of heart over mind.

Now the regular Israeli buses donít ply to the Palestine areas and the Israeli registered cabs and vehicles donít cross over either. So I had two choices, walk over to east Jerusalem and take a Cab from there to Bethlehem or got to Arab bus station in Jerusalem and take a bus. There are organized tours as well from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, but I didnít considered the option.

I took the bus and the fare was only 8 Shekels. I was a bit surprised to see a proper bus to Bethlehem as most of the Arab buses are nothing more than Tata 307 kind converted to ferry people. There were hardly around 15 people in the Bus and I was the only Foreigner com Tourist. I was very curious to look outside the window and see what Palestine/West Bank looks like. As a human being it made me sad to look empty streets, demolished houses and business, etc.. but I donít want to get into the political side of it anyways. But one thing which I felt in Bethlehem was that streets were alive with people doing normal day to day work.

I reached Bethlehem at around 9 AM and the bus stopped some 2 KM away from the Nativity Church where I intended to go, from there either you can take a cab or walk along the Manger Street. Walking is the best way as you can see Bethlehem City as well.

As soon as I got down of the bus, there were around 100 Cab drivers who surrounded me and were offering to take me on a tour of Bethlehem for as little as 30 Shekels. I felt as if they were literally begging me to take the cab. I finally relented and took the cab. The driver was a young guy and quickly took me to church of nativity through cobble stone building and narrow roads. While being in the cab I could hear someone speaking on the loud speaker and it got louder as I approached the Church. The driver then told me while getting down that, there is a protest being organized today from 12:00 PM against the Israeli forces for fatally shooting a local politician in Ramallah. He also warned me that I should get out of Bethlehem as soon as possible, since there is high chances of curfew being imposed. I was very disappointed on hearing this and also a bit worried by now.

So I decided to quickly go around the church of Nativity and return to Jerusalem via to Gilo Check Point. Idea of going into Bethlehem City for sightseeing and lunch was dropped.

Arab Bus Station
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Another Photo
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-bus-stand.jpg

My bus to Bethlehem
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Ever present riot Police
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Police Vehicle outside the Bus Station
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Inside the bus, the driver was Barcelona Fan.. obviously!!
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-inside-bus.jpg

Last edited by chandrda : 25th November 2015 at 09:33. Reason: Corrected
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Old 25th November 2015, 08:00   #2
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Default Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)

Link to my original travelogue on living in Israel (Israel - Living during the Conflict)

Church of Nativity –

The Church of Nativity consists of several Chapels and Churches, the main among them are Basilica of Nativity, Church of St Catherine, Grotto of Nativity and the Manger Square.

The Basilica of Nativity is under restoration and there are lot of scaffolding inside the Basilica. Since I visited just after the war there were hardly any visitors, may be around 30 tourists in the entire Basilica.

The Basilica itself is dark instead with lot of Lanterns hanging from the ceiling, beams etc. Below the Basilica is the Grotto of Nativity where Jesus Christ was born. The exact place is marked by a silver star.

Church of Nativity from Outside. The small entrance you see at the far is called The Door of Humility
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church.jpg

Another Photo
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-another-shot.jpg

Entrance to Basilica
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-entrance-basilica.jpg

Information on Restoration Work
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-restoration-work.jpg

Entrance to Church of St Catherine
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-dsc08644min.jpg

The small square in between the Basilica and the Church of St Catherine
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-square-inside.jpg

There were four orange tree inside the square and very well maintained. I don't know if there any significance to this.
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-orange-tree.jpg

Construction work going on above the the Basilica
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church20.jpg

Corridors leading to the Basilica of Nativity
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church19.jpg

Wall Painting at the entrance of the Church of St Catherine
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-wall.jpg

Its in Spanish/Latin I think, can't read what is it. But has the names of Many Saints
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-inside-2.jpg

Inside the Church of St Catherine
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-inside-church-2.jpg

Inside the Church of St Catherine
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-inside-church-3.jpg

Inside the Church of St Catherine
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-inside.jpg

There was a Mass going on inside the Church of St Catherine and I din't want to disturb in any way. So i quickly proceeded towards the Grotto.

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-mass-1.jpg

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-mass-2.jpg

There is a staircase leading to the Grotto from Church of St Catherine. I don't know what is the historical significance of this place. Anyone with the knowledge please enlighten me.

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-grotto-1.jpg

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-cellar-2.jpg

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Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-cellar-4.jpg

This is Chapel of Holy Innocents
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-cellar-5.jpg

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-cellar-6.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 27th November 2015 at 10:00. Reason: Adding link to Israel Travelogue :)
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Old 25th November 2015, 08:16   #3
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Default re: Israel - Living during the Conflict : Bethlehem photos on page 5

Inside the Basilica of Nativity. There was restoration work going on and hence lot of scaffolding inside the Basilica. Visitors were restricted to a small path inside the Basilica. There were also lot of Lanterns inside the Basilica. Silver Star marks the exact place where Jesus Christ of born

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church1.jpg

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church2.jpg

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church3.jpg

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church4.jpg

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church5.jpg

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church6.jpg

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Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church9.jpg

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church10.jpg

Entrance to the Grotto where Jesus Christ was Born
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church11.jpg

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church12.jpg

Silver Star marks the place where Jesus Christ was Born
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church13.jpg

Also there are 5 lanterns/Lamp which are in a small cage of thing and locked up. I am not sure of the historical significance, but a lot of people were prayer in front of it and taking photo along with it.

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church14.jpg

Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church15.jpg

Inside the Grotto
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church16.jpg

Inside the Grotto
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church17.jpg

Again 5 Lanterns
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-nativity-church18.jpg
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Old 25th November 2015, 08:19   #4
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Default re: Israel - Living during the Conflict : Bethlehem photos on page 5

It took me about 30 minutes to see the entire block and when I came out there was already a crowd of around 300 people in the Manger square. I was surprised to see the same cab drive standing outside the square. Since they were no tourist, he was waiting for me to come out. I asked him if he can drop me to Gilo Check Point, he was utterly shocked and surprised when I asked him. I told him to wait for some 30 minutes and went to see the Manger Square.

Manger Square -

The Manger Square I believe is a historical square and houses many souvenir stores and tourist center. This is also the place where Christmas is celebrated every year and a large crowd gathers from all over the world. The manger square was being decorated for the Christmas. I heard the square is usually filled with tourist/pilgrims, but this time it was the Locals and there were only 5-6 tourists. I quickly went to a souvenir shop, picked up some gifts for friends and jumped into the taxi as the protest was being planned from the Manger Square

Glimpse of the City of Bethlehem. Its a shame that I made all the way till there and couldn't get to see the City. Perhaps I have something to look forward next time I am in Israel
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-city-bethlehem.jpg

A Cafe just outside the Church of Nativity
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-cafe.jpg

Car scene in Bethlehem, parking lot of Church of Nativity
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-dsc08647min.jpg

Christmas Preparation was in full swing at the Manger Square
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-christmas-1.jpg

Christmas Preparation
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-christmas.jpg

A Stage being erected, perhaps for the Christmas Carol and don't miss the banner
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-stage.jpg

Souvenir Shops on the left side, pretty expensive. I couldn't explore all the shops, visiting just one.
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-souvnier-shops.jpg

Directions
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-directions.jpg

Bethlehem Peace Center
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-peace-center.jpg

Reminder, incase I forget where I am
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-reminder.jpg

Gilo Check Point –

Everyday 1000s of Palestinians enter Israel to work and earn a living. All Palestinians are required to go through specific check points and the clearance can take up to few hours. People start queuing up at as early as 3 AM on weekdays and gate opens only at 6 AM. It may take anywhere between 1 hour to 6 hours to clear the check point once the gate opens depending upon the security situation.

Call me a crazy or a fool, but I wanted to cross one of these check points while returning from Bethlehem since I had heard and seen so many news and documentary on these check points. Even though there is a regular, less risky exit which is taken by all tourist I opted for Gilo Check Point or Check Point 300 as it’s called. You can google to know more about this check point.

The check point is heavily guarded and there are lot of barricades, blast doors, and turnstiles. It looks more like a very high security prison than a check post. The military officers posted there were not at all happy that I was trying to cross to Israel through the check point and they made sure that I understand that. But they let me go through it and I finally crossed to Israel, took a cab and reached home.

I was asked by the Military to not take photos and they even asked me to delete the ones I took. Managed 4 photos though

The checkpoint on the Palestine Side and the High rise wall for protection. I road in between I believe is No Man's Land
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-no-mans-land.jpg

Another photo
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-no-mans-land-2.jpg

Entrance to the Actual Check Point on the Israel Side. This is where a Military Guy came shouting at me and asked me not to take photos. I obliged without much resistance
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-entrance-israel-2.jpg

Passage way to the check point
Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)-entrance-israel.jpg

That's All Folks!!

Last edited by chandrda : 25th November 2015 at 10:04.
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Old 27th November 2015, 09:58   #5
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Default Re: Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)

Bethlehem posts moved to a new travelogue. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 27th November 2015, 11:16   #6
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Default Re: Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)

Great post chandrda. My parents went there couple of months back for the pilgrimage, and came back happy. They went as part of a group and included visit to Egypt also including Nile river boating. There is lot of history around this and gives us a good glimpse of how life was in this part of the world.
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Old 30th November 2015, 09:45   #7
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Team BHP is indeed a place where you can find anything related to cars and travel. Good post and brilliant details about the places and the local situation. I always wanted my parents to visit this place but they were always skeptical. I am going to ask my dad to read this post and hopefully he should get motivated enough to say a YES.
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Old 30th November 2015, 14:20   #8
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Default Re: Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)

Thanks for posting those "deleted" photos. Much appreciated and hats off to you for making a trip to Palestine. The pics actually made me a little sad though.....anything more I say will turn into a political statement so let's leave it at that....

Thanks again!
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Old 2nd December 2015, 09:56   #9
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Default Re: Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)

Quote:
Originally Posted by joelchandra View Post
Team BHP is indeed a place where you can find anything related to cars and travel. Good post and brilliant details about the places and the local situation. I always wanted my parents to visit this place but they were always skeptical. I am going to ask my dad to read this post and hopefully he should get motivated enough to say a YES.
All I can say is its absolutely safe to travel in this part of the world. Every year 1000s of Pilgrims visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. Last year was an exception due to war.

Quote:
Originally Posted by naveenroy View Post
Thanks for posting those "deleted" photos.

Thanks again!
Ha Ha caught a glimpse of Sarcasm here . Actually the Military guy asked me to delete the photos of the Soldiers and Check Point. But I quickly took 4 photos and hurriedly went inside.

There are few photos that I have not published here, which made me sad. But I din't post them for the very precise reason. I don't want a political debate and draw the Mods towards me.

Regards
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Old 5th December 2015, 14:23   #10
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Default Re: Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)

Dear chandrda, those are lovely pictures of a place I yearn to visit some day. I had read through your previous travelogue of Israel some months ago. There is so much of significance attached to this place, that to being there and seeing history unfold is MAGIC. And like two other members have already said, to say anything more would be inappropriate. Thank you all the same!
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Old 10th December 2015, 08:23   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Champion View Post
Dear chandrda, those are lovely pictures of a place I yearn to visit some day. I had read through your previous travelogue of Israel some months ago. There is so much of significance attached to this place, that to being there and seeing history unfold is MAGIC. And like two other members have already said, to say anything more would be inappropriate. Thank you all the same!
Thanks Champion

Entire Israel and the Surrounding Countries are very significant historically. You should definitely visit the place sometime

Regards
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Old 21st December 2015, 09:36   #12
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Default Re: Church of the Nativity & Bethlehem (birth place of Jesus Christ)

A very different travelogue from the usual ones. Thanks for sharing, and good to see pics of places which otherwise not many would get a chance to see and experience.
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