Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Andrew Burstein

We started our day out by going to Bethlehem and seeing the Church of Nativity. We had to enter through a check point to get inside Bethlehem, which is part of the Palestinian Authority; Israelis are not allowed to enter; so are tour guide (Amir) could not enter. We were met by another tour guide at the check point in Bethlehem named Gabriella. Gabriella took us straight to the Church of Nativity. The church entrance is roughly five feet high due to the Byzantine change of the church. The original entrance was enormous and big enough for large animals to enter, but the Byzantine decided to change it for only people to enter. The inside had a very high celling with lanterns hanging down. They also had old mosaics by the Byzantines on the floor and on the wall. We learned from our tour guide that the church is used by three different groups: the Greek Orthodox, the Armenians, and the Roman Catholics. Each group uses a different section of the church for their worshiping. An interesting thing we learned was that the Greek Orthodox celebrated Christmas on January seventh, not December twenty fifth and the Armenian will celebrate Christmas on January nineteenth . We then headed down into the cave underneath the church which is where Jesus was born. The spot of his birth was marked with an eight point star on the ground. Then right by the star was the place where he was placed in the manger. Once we exited this part of the Church we entered another cave under the church where we saw a mass conducting in German. They also had a grave site (not the real one) of Saint Jerome (Hioronimous). He is the Saint who spent a long time in the cave translating the Hebrew bible to Latin and the new testament from Greek to Latin. Once leaving the church we went off to the Shepard's Field where we saw a beautiful view of Israel. We had another who was Palestinian tour guide who discussed with us his views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Around the area were old caves where people in the 1st century dwelt. Once back in Israel we met with Amir and he didn't tell us where we were exactly going, but took us to his house in a settlement outside Jerusalem. There we discussed his views of the area and the construction of Israeli settlements going on in the West Bank. Interesting enough we learned that some of the builders of the Israeli settlements were Palestinian. One of the students noticed that Amir was standing next to a picture of William Shatner. We learned that Amir was a tour guide for William Shatner and even got to visit him in his house in LA, he also did tours for Martha Stewart and the Dali Lama. Once leaving we went to the Israeli Museum and saw the exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We had a quick discussion of how they found the scrolls and where they come from. We had to be quick because we only had an hour before the place closed. The exhibit was rather small so many of us wandered around the museum, which had vast amounts of other art work from different time periods and different parts of the world. Personally I wish we had more time to walk around the museum and see other exhibits. Once done many of the students decided to go back into Jerusalem to do some shopping before dinner. We ended the night with a speaker who discussed with us his work in interfaith encounters between Arab and Jews trying to overcome prejudice in this communities, not through politics, but getting to know each other religion and culture.

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