Bethlehem was incredible. It was possibly may favorite day thus far. We crossed the border into the West Bank with no problem and pulled into Bethlehem. Then we heard a Palestinian activist leader guy talk about their side of the war. Two main things that I thought about:
1. "Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Here they have the option for a Two-State solution, but they would rather get all their land back. This is a valid point. However, isn't it better to get something rather than nothing?
2. I cannot comprehend why the Jews are doing the exact same thing to the Palestinians that happened to them. The whole reason they came to "Zion" was to escape persecution, so they are persecuting others to receive that. It just doesn't make sense!
Next we went to Bethlehem University where Dr. Mussallam, our Palestinian teacher, talked to us about the border lines changing during all of the wars. Then we watched a film about the Six-Day War. It reminded me a lot of "Blood Brothers" a book that I read of Christmas break. We then were able to ask questions to a panel of Palestinian students. It was fun. One thing really interesting was there was a Palestinian girl who had studied in Denmark. She talked about how rude the Danes were to her. All I could think of was the Danes side of the story. The Muslims poured into Denmark, live off the system, don't respect the culture and brought high-crime.
The constant theme I am learning on this trip is that there are two sides to every story and no one is completely right.
We then went to lunch under a tent type. I had one of our Palestinian guards from the Jerusalem Center sit at our table and I drilled him on questions about what we had just learned and heard. He said that he and many others are in favor of a Two-State Solution and that it's the only realistic option. We also talked about Hamas, Bush, and security issues. During lunch we saw a nun drinking a huge beer and smoking huka. It was really funny.
After lunch we went to Bethlehem Square and did shopping for Olive Wood, what the town is best known for. I was surprised at how much cleaner and nicer Bethlehem was compared to the Palestinian area we live in.
Church of Nativity was neat to visit. This is the site they believe the Son of God was born. It was neat to think about; however, once again I struggled to really feel the spirit strongly or have it testify of the significance of that spot because it was so touristy and gaudy. I appreciate that church's have been built over all of these sites to preserve them, but I often feel that they built them just so they could make money. Most often I just feel it is not the way I would have imagined that Savior would have wanted it. The monks there kept yelling at us to hurry and take our pictures and quickly move along so that others could see the spot as well. It was too bad it was so rushed when people have made this pilgrimage from around the world to see and they cannot even enjoy a 2 second moment without getting yelled at.
We then went to Shepherds Field, which overlooks Bethlehem. There were no churches, no crowds, no relics just fields in the hills overlooking the city. It was a beautiful moment as we sat and watched the sunset. As we did so this young 12 year old boy came down the hill holding a beautiful white lamb. I couldn't help but think of the painting of the Lamb of God carrying the lamb around His neck. It was a neat moment. We then had a very special devotional. Several people told the story of the Saviors birth but from different viewpoints. Viewpoints such as Mary and Joseph, Elisabeth, Herod, the shepherds, and the wise men. We had some beautiful musical numbers. I especially enjoyed "Mary's Lullaby." I couldn't help but think what it would have been like to the mother to raise the Son of God. While I will never raise such a man, I know that I will one day be blessed to raise some of the children of God, what a humbling thought. Our teacher then recited from memory Luke 2 with the guitar in the background playing silent night. As I thought about this scene happening in this very land streams of tears rolled down my face as I reflected on the night of His sacred birth. What would it have been like? Where was I? What were my thoughts, feelings, and impressions at that moment? I was humbled with gratitude and humility to realize that the Son of God was born to die, that I might live.
I hope that this night will forever remain with me. That Christmas will never again be the same. Even though it is not Christmas time according to the world we are but a few days short of the anniversary of His birth, April 6. May we all take time to ponder what His birth means to us individually.
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