The 1 cave where Jesus was born in: Bethlehem

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Expectation

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, according to biblical references and Christians world over flock to this place for a visit.

It is also revered by Jews as the “birthplace and home town of David, King of Israel, as well as the traditional site of Rachel’s Tomb (on the outskirts of the town)”.

I overheard someone said Bethlehem is the center for Christianity, birthplace of Jesus AS. The tour guide told us we will be seeing the separation wall here. I was so pumped!

Just when my energy level went up, my camera battery went out! Even my phone died on me. Thanks, technology. Can we have chargeless gadgets soon?

The Journey

It was quite a long journey – probably more than an hour, almost two. I don’t remember much else.

Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Pray for the Freedom of Palestine! Photo credit: Lauren Yarger

Weather

It wasn’t as hot as Jericho but not cold either. Temperature was around 30 degree Celsius when I was there.

Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Street view; Photo credit: Lauren Yarger
Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Beauty; Photo credit: Lauren Yarger

People

Other tour groups were already there when we reached. No interaction with locals, of course.

Food

We were all famished even before leaving Jericho! I forgot the name of this Palestinian meal. Starts with letter M, I think.

When we were settling down at the table, I felt the need to ask the tour guide if the food was halal. He irritatedly replied, “Of course, we are muslims”. I felt like throwing a chair at him. He told us he drank alcohol. How am I supposed to know if he observes halal eating as well? Plus, the restaurant sells alcohol.

Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Top: Yellow rice stuffed with chicken meat; Bottom: Vegetarian version
Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Late lunch

The rice look like briyani but it didn’t taste like briyani , my brain and tastebuds got confused. LOL!

But seriously…imagine eating durian that tastes like banana. How would you feel?

Anyway, rice stuffed with lots of chicken, OF COURSE!

I must’ve lost my camera here. Maybe I didn’t take it with me when we were leaving. I didn’t lose much – just a lot of videos of beautiful scenery and some memories.

Sightseeing

The Church of the Nativity

We got a local tour guide here.

This is a basilica built over a cave that Jesus was said to be born in. There’s several sections of this church:

Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Walking towards the Church of the Nativity; Photo credit: Lauren Yarger
Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Funny but that vintage bus took the limelight from the church; Photo credit: Lauren Yarger

We had to pass through a low door to enter the church. The tour guide explained that upon entering the church, you are actually bowing down in respect. This is called the “Door of Humility”. Cool but I pity the tall ones.

Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
The Door of Humility leads into the Church of the Nativity; Photo credit: Wikipedia

Basilica of the Nativity

After the low door, we entered the basilica. We came to this site, peeping through the wooden floor. This is the original mosaic built during Constantine time.

Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Construction of the basilica started by Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine I, from 327 to 333; Photo credit: Lauren Yarger
Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Photo credit: Lauren Yarger
Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Major renovations underway but it still looked beautiful; Photo credit: Lauren Yarger
Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Photo credit: Lauren Yarger

“I saw a muslim in this tour group,” the tour guide called out. Raised up my hand and he explained something about some Islamic history in relation to the church. Seriously, I don’t remember what he said now but when he said it I knew what he was talking about and I was nodding vigorously to whatever he was saying. I think he was talking about Khalifah Umar RA, not too sure. Anyway, I felt so welcomed!

Grotto of the Nativity

According to Christian traditions, this is where virgin Mary (Maryam) delivered Jesus AS. This grotto was located at a lower level than the basilica. It was really dark in here.

I was observing the people taking pictures with the silver star when some people asked if I’d like to take a picture there too.

I felt kinda touched. Felt like they understand that Jesus or Prophet Isa AS is part of Islam too.

However, I declined several times – I’m no fan of queuing. Plus, it was too dark, we were in a tiny cave and the Christian tourists were praying there. So they should be given priority.

Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Where Jesus was born, marked by the 14 pointed silver star; Photo credit: Lauren Yarger
Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Where Jesus’ cradle was supposedly placed; Photo credit: Lauren Yarger
Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Photo credit: Lauren Yarger

Church of St. Catherine

This is the Roman Catholic church dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, a princess and scholar who accepted Christianity when she was 14 years old and died a martyr.

However, there were some disputes over her existence.

Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Photo credit: Lauren Yarger
Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Photo credit: Lauren Yarger

At the end of the tour (just of the church), I felt my brain burning with information overload. I’ve never read up on Christianity (in depth) and Jesus’s life, so everything was new info for me and I couldn’t process much of it.

Banksy’s Dove

Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
When Banksy speaks; Photo credit: Lauren Yarger

This is on a run down area. There were cars parked in front of it. The tour guide dropped us off for maybe 5 minutes to take pictures and we’re off again.

The Separation Wall

I was surprised that it sits on a small, working street. We had to look out for vehicles while taking pictures.

The graffiti were incredible! As an art form, it’s perfect. As a political message, on point!

The experience was eye opening. I can’t decipher the fact that there’s a woman out there, just like me, living under occupation. It’s 2016, a year in the so-called modern times and yet there are people living in war, the oldest game in human history.

Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
The Infamous Separation Wall; Photo credit: Lauren Yarger
Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
My favourite travel photo of all time; Photo credit: Eugene Norman Ribay
Bethlehem, west bank, palestine, international travel, palestine travel, middle east, 2016, the journey, severe weather, adventure travel, cost analysis, i wander to wonder, church of the nativity, the separation wall, banksy, Israel, Palestine, Jesus AS, nabi isa, king david, nabi daud, nabi sulaiman, solomon, cost breakdown, the journey, weather, people, food, sightseeing, customs, verdict, tips, visit rating, cost
Strong political message; Photo credit: Lauren Yarger

It was a super long stretch. We got to the end of the street and we were given spray canisters to put our mark on the wall. I had the urge to spray out my thoughts but I reeled in.

I was nervous – I have never spray painted before and because I’m an irritating perfectionist, I’d hate to see ugly work done. Also because I was nervous about getting my thoughts, emotions and opinions out there for everyone to see. Now I wish I did.

Maybe one day I’ll go back and do it, right now I’d have to practice spray painting. Or maybe one day when I go back, the wall is gone.

The Verdict

So much to learn from this trip.

I wish we went to Mosque of Omar (not to be confused to the one in Jerusalem) but we were in a tour group and this was not part of the tour. I think it should – it was just opposite of the Church of the Nativity.

There are some other attractions here like Solomon’s Pools and Herodium which can be interesting.

If I could, I would’ve spent about a day or two in Bethlehem alone.

Visit Rating

4/5 stars.

Should you wander to Bethlehem, Palestine? Yes!

Tips

  • Read up on Christianity and Jesus first before coming, to avoid info overload
  • Spray on the separation wall
  • Visit the Mosque of Omar
  • If you can and confident enough, don’t join a tour. Do it yourself, you can cover more attractions

Cost Breakdown

  • Tour price: $135, 12hrs duration including travel time, Ramallah-Jericho-Bethlehem
  • Lunch with 1 soft drink: $15, not included in the tour price

*All prices are in SGD (estimate).

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2 thoughts on “The 1 cave where Jesus was born in: Bethlehem

  1. Muslims eveywhere (I’m in Australia) do get offended when you ask if their food is halal, even though they’re not practicing. I get that a lot when I innocently ask if the food they’re selling in their shops are halal and they get all offended like I’ve just insulted them. LOL

    1. Nur

      Yeah I get that they’re offended but it’s our responsibility to check as well. Anyway, we can’t please people all the time so I’d rather please Allah. I’m sure He’ll make it easy for us all – shop owners and consumers 🙂

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