Nice idea, Mummers!
Since Christmas fell on a Saturday, and Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, and Israel is a Jewish State, and therefore buses wouldn't run on Saturday, we took an Arab bus most of the way to Bethlehem (see below for details).
In a strange way, it felt great to be in Bethlehem. It's an Arab village now, and it feels that way. Thing is, I've gotten used to feeling like the "different" one wherever I go. In Israel, I'm constantly mistaken for Israeli. And I haven't been in a place so similar to the United States since leaving Australia. Going to Bethlehem was like leaving "civilization" again, going back to a place where I'm the oddball. This is normal to me now.
|the mosque opposite Manger Square|
The Church of the Nativity is nice. Not the largest or grandest church I've visited, but probably the most crowded--it was PACKED with pilgrims. A long line stretched from the back of the church all the way to the Grotto of the Nativity at the front of the church. Somehow, Davo and I managed to get to the front of the line by going to the opposite side of the church, then getting waved through to cross the apse. The actual spot where Baby Jesus was supposedly born is just a silver star on the ground. You can see it on Wikipedia, if you're interested.
|christmas tree at manger square|
For future reference, here's how to get from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. You'll need 13 schekels for the round-trip fare. Don't forget your passport.
(1) Go to the Arab bus station across from Damascus Gate:
|thanks, planetware, for the best bethlehem map i could find|