Afternoon in Bethlehem

After a full morning traversing the Mount of Olives, we set out for Bethlehem.

Our first stop was the Nissan Brothers' New Store, where a lot of us got a lot of shopping done. We had lunch at their restaurant, too.

Then we took the short bus ride to the Church of the Nativity, where we entered through the low door installed by the Turks, altering a Crusader arch:

While awaiting access to the Grotto, the cave where Jesus was born, we viewed the fourth century mosaics from the Constantinian church that predated the Justinian church that survives to this day:

Next stop: the Grotto, where we sang "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night":

After a short time in the Grotto, we went next door to St. Catherine's Church:

St. Catherine's sits atop the same cave as the Grotto, but the portion where St. Jerome is said to have lived and translated the Bible into Latin:

There are several niches and altars in St. Jerome's cave:

From there it was a short ride to Bet Sahour, the Shepherd's Field, where we read from Luke 2:6-17:

And another beautiful chapel there, designed by Bartolucci, the same architect who designed Dominus Flevit Church and the Church of the Agony:

From Bet Sahour we started our journey back to the hotel where, after dropping some things in our rooms a few of us headed out for the Old City. We took a cab to Jaffa Gate, had pizza at Rami's Pizza on Hayehudim Street, and then headed to the Kotel, the Western Wall, which is a singular experience at night:

We prayed at the Wall (which we'll visit again tomorrow), and Scott and I visited the ancient synagogue by the Wall (which has been entirely and luxuriously renovated since I was here last). A short cab ride returned us to our hotel, and we settled in for the night.

Another amazing day in the City of our God.

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