Merry Christmas !! Pictures from Bethlehem.

Christmas Day — a good day to post pictures of Bethlehem.  The focal point of any visit to Bethlehem is Manger Square.  It is a pedestrian zone bordered by the Church of the Nativity, the Mosque of Omar, the Palestinian Peace Center and a wonderful falafel shop which also serves freshly squeezed orange juice.  Star Street, Nativity Street and Manger Street converge on the square. Some claim that the Church of the Nativity is the oldest Christian worship site in the world.  It was built during the rule of Constantine on a site selected by his mother, St. Helena.  She … Continue reading Merry Christmas !! Pictures from Bethlehem.

Christmas Eve, Shepherds’ Fields outside Bethlehem.

It’s Christmas Eve.  In the news we have constant reminders that “Peace on Earth” is still a hope not a fact.  This is evident at Shepherds’ Field outside Bethlehem where you can easily see the security apparatus that meanders around the hilltop where shepherds first heard “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” (assuming the angels sang in Latin).  The Franciscans control this hilltop and when we were there in 2010 we listened to them field questions from tourists looking out over the fields asking what exactly they were seeing.  In one of the pictures in this post you can see an Israeli … Continue reading Christmas Eve, Shepherds’ Fields outside Bethlehem.

The Original Olive Garden, Gethsemane, with very Old Trees

Many Holy Land sites are frauds, built after the fact; like the room sold to tourists as the “Upper Room” of the Last Supper but built in 1099 CE.  But the Garden of Gethsemane is the real thing.  Christ may or may not have prayed there, but  the Garden of Gethsemane has very old olive trees.  When Suzi and I visited the garden we were told the trees are 2000 years old.  Since then, carbon dating in 2012 marked them as only between 900 to 1000 years old.   DNA tests show the trees all came from a common parent.  They … Continue reading The Original Olive Garden, Gethsemane, with very Old Trees

Holy Land Kitsch

The Holy Land is mostly a fraud– a willing suspension of disbelief that allows you to believe that something happened at this exact spot and, therefore, this exact spot is holy. Stephen, one of the drivers who takes us to radio stations around the West Bank said “I hope you’re not Protestants because Protestants don’t seem to believe as much in these holy places.”  Then he pointed to a gate in the Old City wall and said “that’s where Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.” I said, “But that gate was built in the 16th century.” “Protestants!” But to make … Continue reading Holy Land Kitsch

Crucifixion and Resurrection in Jerusalem.

You need a lot of faith to visit holy sites in the Holy Land.  The “upper room” where Jerusalem tells you the Last Supper took place was built by crusaders in 1099.  The gate the tour guide tells you Jesus entered on Palm Sunday was built by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 1500s.  There are three sites that claim to be the Jesus baptism site.  There are at least two Mt. Sinai’s.  And so it is with the crucifixion and resurrection.  There are two sites claiming that honor in Jerusalem. You can see a real contradiction in styles when you … Continue reading Crucifixion and Resurrection in Jerusalem.

Mt. Nebo, Jordan

When Moses got to Mt. Nebo he could see the Promised Land, but he could not enter. The mountain has a commanding view down into the Jordan Valley and across.  It is more than 2.600 feet above sea level and the Dead Sea at the foot of the Jordan Valley is more than 1,400 feet below sea level.  That’s quite a drop and quite a view.  You can just see the gold glint of dome from the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. You can also see Jericho, the Dead Sea and practically all of modern Palestine and Israel.  I … Continue reading Mt. Nebo, Jordan

Bethany Beyond the Jordan.

This is the first of my posts on Holy Land sites.  Over the months there will be more.  We cannot be sure where most things in the Bible actually happened because, at the time, people didn’t put down GPS markers.  For instance, there are two competing sites of the crucifixion in Jerusalem.  The Via Dolorosa has changed routes several times.  The upper room touted as the site of the Last Supper is in a building erected in the 11th Century – AD.  This is one of three sites claiming to be the place Jesus was baptized.  If you’re looking for … Continue reading Bethany Beyond the Jordan.