Israel 2016 – Part 1

It is my privilege to spend nine days in Israel and the West Bank (Palestine) as a tourist, to attend a conference, and to be on pilgrimage to biblical sites.

My friend Phil was planning to come with me, but unforeseen circumstances forced him to cancel a few days before the trip, so I am here alone.

Arrived on Sunday, March 6. Staying in the Orient Palace Hotel, which opened last October. It is located in the West Bank in the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, adjoining Bethlehem.

Historically, many Christians have lived in the three connected towns of Beit Jala, Bethlehem and Beit Sahour. Beit Sahour includes two locations that are claimed by different Christian denominations to be The Shepherds Field where angels appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus.


Here is the view from the balcony of my room. Typical scene, with a few olive trees standing in any open spot that has not been developed.

Today I walked 25 minutes to the heart of Bethlehem.


Common street scenes in Bethlehem. Blue seems to be the favorite color here.


Peace Fountain (no water running today) in a small square. Installed in 1999.


Wall and bell tower next to the entrance to the Church of the Nativity.


The entrance is unassuming. One story says that the entrance was made this low in the Middle Ages so that the Crusaders could not ride their horses into the church. Who would have thought?!


Inside the church you walk on a wooden floor that protects the beautiful and intricate mosaic floor that dates from the 4th Century.

The original church was commissioned in 327 by the Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena. It was destroyed by  fire in the 6th Century and rebuilt in 565. It is under restoration now, so I have no good photos of the dark interior. You can go online and see the beauty of the interior. The exterior is a plain limestone wall.

I see many Common swifts here – a bit larger than the Chimney swift we have in America. Noisy creatures, they fly above and around city buildings in “screaming parties,” as the bird guide book says.

This evening KB came to visit me. He is a Palestinian Christian living in Beit Sahour. His farm was confiscated by the State of Israel because it was deemed to be a good location for a future Israeli settlement. As common in such cases, he was not given any payment for the confiscated farm. KB has worked with Hank Dannecker of 1 NewHeart, an organization that helps children get life-saving heart surgery by Jewish doctors in Tel Aviv through an organization called Save A Child’s Heart.

4 Responses

  1. Thanks John! I was hoping that you would post about this trip. Praying for you and Phil. Have a great conference and journeys!

    • Thanks posting your comment. Unfortunately, Phil had to cancel at the last minute – health and business concerns – so I am here alone. I edited my blog to clarify that I am here alone. John

  2. Thank you for your thoughts and pictures. My mind reels with questions about justice as I read about your conversation with the young man whose land was taken. Questions about how it differs from Israel taking the promised land so long ago, and how we respond today. May you continue to hear God’s voice in a place so dear to His heart!

  3. Very interesting to see the pictures and read of your travels. And as always, very well written.

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