Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Where It Started … Part 3

Our tour of the Holy Land did not follow the timeline of Jesus’ life. For instance, we didn’t go to Bethlehem, where our Savior was born, until the sixth day of our visit. By the time we went to His birthplace, we had already seen where He was baptized and where He died, was buried, and rose again.

I have decided to try to put as much as I can into chronological order rather than how we saw the landmarks while on our tour. I think it will make more sense that way. Naturally, you can skip around this blog at your convenience and can visit whichever page(s) you desire in the order that pleases you.

Notice the Christmas tree on the left and the Peace Center on the right. (I believe the Peace Center actually may just be a restaurant, but given the political situation, I thought it might be something more significant…)

Bethlehem

It takes someone much smarter than I am to understand how the West Bank and occupied territories all work. I’ve tried to do some research on it all, but I am sorry to say that my mind is left spinning.

So, while I do not purport to understand it all, suffice it to say that Bethlehem is in the West Bank. Our Jewish Israeli tour guide was unable to accompany us into Bethlehem because it is under Palestinian rule.

There is a sign at the border warning Israelis that they could be hurt if they cross over into the West Bank. If I understand correctly, this is because of Israel laws, not Palestinian.

 

Israeli citizens – turn around! You are not allowed here!

Therefore, we were given a Christian Palestinian to guide us through Shepherds’ Field and the Church of the Nativity. I wish I better understood all of the politics of it.

The Names of Bethlehem

Bethlehem plays an important role in both the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible. In Biblical times, it was known as Bethlehem Ephrathah or Bethlehem-Judah. Currently, you may hear it referred to as Bethlehem or by its Arabic name Bayt Laḥm (which translates to “House of Meat”) or its Hebrew name, Bet Leḥem (meaning “House of Bread”).

Getting to Bethlehem

Today, Bethlehem is located in the West Bank. It is only about five miles south of Jerusalem, situated in the Judaean Hills. To get here, though, you have to cross out of Israel and into the West Bank. Fences and warnings abound.

In recent years, tourists quit going to Bethlehem because it was simply deemed to be too dangerous. However, the Palestinians have made great effort to remedy that situation since much of its economy is tourist-driven.

Border security.

Bethlehem in Biblical Times

Bethlehem is important to Christians for many reasons, most especially because it is where our Savior was born over 2,000 years ago. The Church of the Nativity, which stands over the cave where Jesus was born, is one of the oldest Christian churches.

It was initially built by Helena (326-328), mother of the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I. The original church was destroyed but it was rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Justinian (reigned 527–565). It remains substantially the same today as it was then.

Luke 2:4-7:

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 

Bethlehem is important to Christian pilgrims for more reasons than “just” the birth of Christ:

  • Rachel, Jacob’s wife and the mother of Benjamin, died during childbirth on the way to Bethlehem (aka Ephrath). She was buried there. (Genesis 35:16-20)
  • It is where most of the Book of Ruth took place. Ruth married Boaz in Bethlehem. They ultimately became the great-grandparents of the mighty King David.
  • King David was born and raised in Bethlehem. It was there that he was anointed king of Israel by the prophet Samuel (I Samuel 16).
  • King David’s grandson, Rehoboam, who became the first king of Judah (2 Chronicles 11), fortified the town.
  • Shepherds’ Field, where the Angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds tending their sheep and announced the birth of Christ is also near Bethlehem.
  • King Herod assassinated all boys in Bethlehem, ages two and under, in a jealous rage after he heard that Jesus, King of the Jews, was born. He hoped that by killing all young boys he would do away with the Christ-child.

Bethlehem Today

The population of Bethlehem and surrounding villages today is over 220,000 people, including over 20,000 living in three refugee camps (Dheisheh, Aida and Beit Jibrin). While Christians made up most (86%) of the population of Bethlehem in 1950, that is no longer the case. Now, according to Bethlehem mayor Vera Baboun, Christians make up only 12% of the population.

Church in Bethlehem

 

Sadly, Baboun says that the unemployment rate in Bethlehem is a staggering 27%. Part of the reason for this high unemployment is the declining tourism trade. Most tourists, even if they go to Bethlehem, do not stay long and spend little of their money there.

When we were there as part of our tour, we ate lunch in Bethlehem, quickly visited Shepherds’ Field, spent an hour or so at the Church of the Nativity (including waiting to be allowed down to the cave over which the church sits), visited a very commercial, very expensive shop, and left.

Angel carved from Olive wood. Beautiful and expensive.

I personally spent a total of $16 US in Bethlehem, the cost of my lunch. I suspect that was also the case for many of the other people who were on our tour. Unfortunately, we didn’t help Bethlehem’s local economy much by our visit.

Just for Fun

Before I leave this page, I want to leave you with a touch of America that has made it across the ocean to the West Bank. Not only did we pass a number of McDonald’s fast food restaurants during our journeys – some kosher, some not – we saw lots of other American companies represented in the Middle East.

Coffee, anyone? I loved the play on words here. (Although I didn’t see it while in Bethlehem, there is also a Walled Off Hotel … playing off the name of the popular Waldorf Hotel in America.)
KFC, Samsung, Dell … All brands we know and love here in America!
You can find Coca Cola at most restaurants. I didn’t have one so I am not sure if it tastes the same as in the US. Notice, too, our American Santa pushing the product!

 

Links to the Hope and Survive pages related to my 2019 trip to Israel:
Journey to Israel – The Beginning … Part 1
Journey to Israel – Getting There … and Getting Home … Part 2
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Part 3
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Church of the Nativity … Part 4
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Church of Saint Catherine … Part 5
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Shepherds’ Field … Part 6
Journey to Israel … Nazareth … Part 7
Journey to Israel … Caesarea Maritima
Journey to Israel … Mount Carmel
Journey to Israel … Sea of Galilee
Journey to Israel … Ginosar and the “Jesus Boat”
Journey to Israel … St Peter’s Restaurant

 

Ready or Not … the Holidays are Coming

Boy! I don’t know how you feel about it, but for me, 2018 has sped by like a bullet. I cannot believe that we are about to begin the holiday season. In some ways, I love this time of year.

What I love about this time of year…

I like the weather better, for sure. I live in Texas where it is hot a good portion of the year. I look forward to cooler temperatures and always dream of a “white Christmas,” though the likelihood of having one is quite slim.

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Lung Cancer Drives My Passions

Before I got lung cancer, I was passionate about grant writing for K12 education and running my dogs in agility. As a lung cancer patient, I am very passionate about the following five things…

Advocating for funding to support research

Anyone who knows me or reads much of what I write knows that I am absolutely consumed with trying to get more money for lung cancer research. Not only do I attempt to fundraise for various lung cancer-related organizations, but I also write to my state and federal legislators on a frequent basis. I always request funding in amounts as significant as the death rate from lung cancer demands.

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Looking at the Positives of Having Lung Cancer – Am I Crazy?

Okay, this post is probably going to have a lot of people looking at me and thinking I have gone stark-raving crazy. But, here goes anyway!

What would life without cancer be like?

I participate in a forum whose participants have all kinds of different cancers. Today, a post was made that asked, “Do you get wrapped up in thinking about what might have been if cancer hadn’t come?” The person who asked the question is livid that she has cancer.

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Anxiety…An Unwelcome Visitor

I recently saw a study that found that lung cancer patients who do not have anxiety or depression live longer than those who do.1 I was surprised to find this information because I have always been told that attitude might make your remaining life happier, but it has no impact on how long you live.

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Busy, Fun Week

I have already written about my excitement on Monday when I got to be interviewed for NBC Nightly News. What fun that was!!! But, it was only the beginning of an incredible week!

First Monthly Opdivo Treatment

I had to rush to my treatment appointment after the NBC interview. For nearly five years, I have gotten my treatments every two weeks. My friends, that is a lot of doctor appointments, especially for someone who previously avoided doctors like the plague. On Monday, I started getting a double dose of Opdivo. I will only go for treatments once a month.

I am so excited to have more of my life returned to me. I was a little nervous though about potential side effects. Well, it is Friday night and I have felt fine the entire time since the treatment. Yes!!!

Fun in the Sun (and the Bluebonnets)

On Tuesday, my friend Deanna drove three-plus hours to meet me in Ennis, Texas. Ennis is known for its beautiful patches of bluebonnets, the Texas state flower. Now, if you live in Texas, you live for bluebonnet season! It is a rare Texan that doesn’t head out to the bluebonnets with their kids, their dogs, their grandmas, their husbands or wives for pictures.

Deanna and I had so much fun! She lives in Florida now so I don’t get to see her often. I was blessed that she spent one of her days of vacation in Texas with me. We had a blast driving all through Ennis and Palmer and surrounding communities searching for bluebonnets. I can’t say we found a lot, but we had a lot of fun laughing and talking up a storm!!

It had been a LONG time since I had had my good camera out. I was afraid I wouldn’t remember how to use it, but a lot of it came back to me. It was good to use it again. Unfortunately, I have to remember how to reduce the file size before I can share any of them here with you.

Working Out

Wednesday was a day of rest, but Thursday found me back at the gym with my friend Linda. We have been trying to work out at least twice a week since the new year began. She is a little better about making the goal plus some than I am. That’s probably why she’s having a little better results than I am, too!

Nevertheless, while I guess it is not “fun,” exactly, to go to the gym, I do enjoy getting together with her. Despite being tired and sore when we leave, I do feel more energized. I can tell I am stronger. Now, if only, I would lose some weight … or at least … some belly.

Thursday afternoon, I listened to a Webinar on advocating to Congress in preparation for the Life and Breath rally in Washington, DC next week. Immediately following that, I participated in a market research call. I always like to do those, both because I make a little spending money and because it is fun to see what potential commercials will be coming out. Oddly, I liked all three commercials I was shown. I typically don’t like or can find ways to improve the ads I’m shown.

Webinar Presenter

Today, I got to have another new experience. I got to participate as a presenter in a Webinar about immunotherapy. It was a lot of fun. I had worried about my Internet service not cooperating, but today it was good. If only the guy who does our yard hadn’t shown up just about the time the Webinar started… I suspect there will be a lot of lawn mowing noises in the background when the Webinar is published.

I also tried making a video to post on WhatNext. For a first try, it wasn’t bad. I got a kick out of the fact that Espy decided that it was the perfect time for some petting, affection, and purring. Like with the yard mowing, timing is everything!

I have a few down days now, which I need. I leave for Washington, DC on Wednesday morning. I have a 6AM flight so we’ll have to be at the airport by 4 AM. It takes about an hour to get there. Maybe I won’t go to bed??? I’m sleepy just thinking about it!

I hope you’ve also had a fun and interesting week!

 

Hope Springs Eternal

“Study nature. Love nature. Stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” –Frank Lloyd Wright

waterfall

Since I have been surviving cancer, I have really, really enjoyed visiting the gardens at the Dallas Arboretum. Whether I go with friends or by myself, I am filled with gratitude and peace while I am there. I consider my enjoyment of the gardens as one of the blessings of having cancer, because unfortunately, before being diagnosed with cancer, I never took the time to go.

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Originally published March 10, 2016

The Power of Owning a Pet

I am an animal lover. I always have been. When I was a little girl, my mother would let us have cats but not dogs. I remember frequently hugging a stuffed poodle and praying that God would turn it into a real dog.

As soon as I was on my own, I got a dog or two or three! I’ve had at least one my entire adult life. Usually, I have had two or more. They complete me. I suspect many of you know exactly what I mean.  …More…

Don’t Give Up: Taking Control of Your Life

donna-pastureI am sitting here staring at a blank sheet of paper, wondering what I have to say to you that will be worth your time reading it. I am no scientist. With the advent of chemo brain, I don’t even really enjoy reading and researching like I once did. So I have no great wisdom to impart.

What I do have to pass along is hope. Such a little word but one that has the ability to change your life. Hope crowds out anxiety and pushes away fear. It fills you with peace and can motivate you.  ….More

 

Happiness is My Normal

I was just looking at my Facebook memories. I love those! I find myself posting things I want to remember to Facebook now so that they will show up in my memories in the future. Am I the only person who does that?  More…

 

A few years ago, I wrote a number of blog posts for Patient Power. I am going to provide links to them on my blog.  Happiness is My Normal was originally posted 4/28/2016