Tuesday, March 10, 2009

O, Little Town of Bethlehem....

First, an answer to my niece's question. Yes, that was a diet coke in yesterdays picture. The language on it is Arabic. Here is the language low-down. Hebrew is spoken by the Jewish people. However, there are lots and lots of people who live in Israel who are not Jewish. The speak Arab and are known as Palestinians (also sometimes called Arabs). The writing on the coke bottle was in Arabic.

Speaking of Palestinian and Jewish people, they is lots and lots of tension here. Israel has divided the land here and put a fence around parts that are Jewish to keep the Palestinians out....mostly. But it isn't that easy. Because a lot of Palestenians live on the Jewish side of the wall. And a lot of families are split up on either side of the wall. And lots of Jewish people do not like the wall. And almost all Palesteninian people despise the wall. I included a picture of it. We crossed through a point in the wall, called a check point, to go to Bethlehem today because it is in a Palestinian area known as the West Bank. We had to show our passports and tell the guards we were from the United States. They let us through no problem. However, there was a Palestinian woman in front of us as we left and they checked all over in her car and in the trunk of her car. The wall and the checkpoints were very sad because they make the Palestinians feel like they are not as beloved as the Jewish people. I don't believe that, do you? We have some African American pastors in our group who say it is like before the time of Martin Luther King, Jr. when black people in our country were not given all the rights as white people.

We talked to a Palestinian Christian in Bethlehem who is the Pastor of the Holy Christmas Lutheran Church there. He said for many Palestenians there is no hope. There are no jobs. There is no freedom to travel. There is little freedom to do anything if you are a Palestenian. He said his church is about offering hope. While I was in Bethlehem I read a card that said, "in Bethlehem today, let there be peace on earth and good will to all." Please pray for peace in this country of Israel/Palestine.

When we first arrived in Bethlehem, we went past the city (which is now a modern city and I posted a picture) up to a place called the Herodium. It used to be a massive palace and all kinds of other buildings that King Herod had built during the time of Jesus and right after that time. (if you remember from the other day, he also built the city Ceasarea Maritima) I posted a picture of a dog there who looked like he was checking out the whole valley. I also posted a picture of where archeologists are digging up to find and learn about the Herodium. One more picture is one of huge balls that look like canon balls. They were actually used for catapults to fling at enemies who might be coming to destroy the palace.

Of course, you all remember what Bethlehem is famous for........well.....two things actually. For Christian and Jewish people it is special because David (who would become king) lived here. David was also anointed by the prophet Samuel (our Sam's namesake) right here. But, O Little Town of Bethlehem is about Jesus. Bethlehem is the city where Jesus was born. We went to a church called The Chruch of the Nativity which is said to be built on the site where Jesus was born (remember that there was no room at the inn or hotel, so he was born in a stable for animals and laid in a manger) To get into the church you have to go through a tiny door. The door was made tiny so way long time ago (this church was built around 450 AD) people couldn't ride their horses into the church and steal stuff from the church.....so they made the door tiny. I included a picture of me bending down to go through the tiny door.

We had a very late night tonight. Oh yes, I forgot to say. The Jewish people here are celebrating Purim tonight and tomorrow. Purim is a festival celebrating Queen Esther and her bravery. You can read about it in the book of Esther in the bible. So...today, for Purim the children dress up and the grownups give them candy (sort of like Halloween)!! We went to the Western Wall to watch the children wandering around in their costumes.

Peace in this land and ours, Pastor Laurie

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