To Bethlehem and back

Now that my time in Tel Aviv is winding down, I’m starting to realize all of the things I haven’t done yet. One thing on the bucket list was to go to Bethlehem. I had planned to drive, but realized at the last minute that my car insurance doesn’t extend into the West Bank. Rather than take a chance, I booked a trip through a tour company.

The town of Bethlehem is an Arab town with crowded, winding streets. Our Israeli tour guide can’t go into the West Bank (like my car), so we got handed off to another guide, and then later transferred again into small vans that could navigate the tiny streets. I wanted to take photos of the separation barrier wall because it is covered with graffiti-style art promoting peace, but it’s not a good idea to whip out a camera at any Israeli checkpoint.

The tour wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I had hoped to stroll around and hit some of the gift shops for¬†kitschy gifts, but the tour was more rigid – only one stop for souvenirs and the prices were outrageous. I even sneaked across the street to look at another shop and their prices were the same, so I came home empty-handed. ($19.99 for a Baby Jesus snow globe???)

Anyway, I did get to go the Church of the Nativity, the traditional site of Jesus’ birth. If you have any desire to go, by all means go with a guide who can get you down in the tiny grotto without waiting in line. It’s so small that only a handful of people can be there at a time – the line for the public had about a thousand people in it – they may still be there waiting.

So I saw “the exact spot” where Jesus was born and the location of the manger, down in this grotto below the church. The church itself is divided into Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic – the Greek Orthodox section is extremely ornate, and they were holding their afternoon mass when we were there.

Church of the Nativity Mass

Artist sketching Dome of the Rock











The tour also went to the Old City and Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, so I re-visited some spots like the Wailing Wall and the Church of the Sepulcher.

In small world fashion, there was a guy on my tour who had worked in the Embassy in Warsaw with a guy I went to A-100 with!

This was a pretty good week; my manager was away at a conference, so I was left to my own devices.

Last Sunday morning, I took Flavie back to the vet for her titer test; the vet was pleased to see some hair re-growth. We think the combination of hypoallergenic food and Feliway (an aerosol calming agent) may be doing the trick.

Sunday night I went with some friends to a nice restaurant to celebrate Diane’s birthday.

On Wednesday night, we all took a shuttle to the DCM’s house to listen to a professor from Ben Gurion University talk about Iran – interesting. For all the news, Iran doesn’t really seem to be a big topic on the streets here in Tel Aviv.

Street in Old City














This morning I had breakfast with Petit across the street from the beach, then got a manicure and pedicure – not a bad way to spend a rather chilly Sunday!

Selling Jerusalem bread

Old City cat

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