Here’s how modern-day Bethlehem looks with its rolling hills. Our next stop was dinner!
We went to a place called “The Tent,” to eat, a Lebanese Bedouin place. They brought out baskets of pita with lots of things to dip or eat with it–humus, slaws, olives, eggplant, beets, pickled things, etc. Then they brought out a big platter with lamb and beef meatballs, grilled chicken chunks, french fries and poached tomatoes. This meal is served everywhere we go. We sat at tables on sofas covered in woven fabric. The ceiling was covered with fabric like a tent. There were several busloads of people there. Mass food.
Then we drove to the traditional place of the shepherd’s fields.
When I was a student here in 1979, we lived at Ramat Rachel Kibbutz on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem, not far from what our LDS teachers called the shepherd’s fields. On the eve of April 6th, I went by myself, out into those fields of rolling hills, and sat in the dark on a hillside, listening to a cassette tape of my favorite Tabernacle Choir sacred Christmas music.
Those hills are now in no-man’s land, where no one is allowed to go–the de-militarized zone. I never knew there was such a place as this “traditional site.” I’m wondering now if our professors then purposely avoided some of these sites because of the entrance fees. We often went instead to more natural settings where things might have happened.
In any case, this garden area was lovely and I was really happy we came here.
In this place there is a church and 2 caves that date back 3000 years. We got to go into the caves to talk about Jesus’ birth. There was a sweet feeling here.
In the area around the caves were excavations from the Byzantine Era and some seating areas for groups. We went to one and sang a few Christmas carols. The kids ran and played, then crawled through a cave that went in here and came out over there. The “Shepherd’s Fields” were off in the distance–some hills across the way. Bethlehem is very hilly. The hills are steep and hard to navigate. Getting from the fields to the manger would have taken more than a couple of hours–maybe a day or more (at least for me).
These are the hills surrounding Bethlehem: