49 Photos - Feb 5, 2009
Photo: Photo: The Church of the Visitation, said to be built over the home of John the Baptist's parentsPhoto: The Magnificat is here in 42 languages--these are Mary's words after greeting her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth.Photo: Ein Karem, the birthplace of John the Baptist, is today a neighborhood in southwest Jerusalem about five miles from where Mary lived at the time she visited.Photo: The Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein KaremPhoto: The dome of the churchPhoto: Israel's Holocaust Museum, Yad VashemPhoto: The Avenue of the Righteous where trees have been planted to remember Gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews.Photo: The prism-like museum opened in 2005.  Designed by Moshe Safdie, the design represents half of a Star of David, commemorating the deaths of half of the world's Jewish population in the Holocaust.Photo: Parts of the interior seem like prisons to give a feel for the terror experienced.  At the end of the museum is the Hall of Names with three million forms filled out by friends and family of those who died.Photo: The Pillar of Heroism commemorating Jewish resistance during the Holocaust.Photo: The exterior of the Children's Memorial--approximately 1.5 million children died in the Holocaust.Photo: The Children's Museum is hauntingly beautiful.  Inside, what seems like thousands of candles honor the children who died.  Recorded voices read the names of children.Photo: A sculpture of Janus Korczak and his Polish orphanage children.  Janusz Korczak and the children of his orphanage were sent to the Treblinka death camp on August 5, 1942.Photo: Approximately 6 million died in the Holocaust.Photo: A model of Jerusalem in the second Temple period.  The huge model is at the Israel Museum.Photo: Note the spectators near the model.Photo: The model depicts Jerusalem in 66 A.D.Photo: The arrow points to the location of the Western Wall.Photo: The model is at 1:50 scale and was moved here in 2006 from a hotel.Photo: The Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are kept here.Photo: The museum contains numerous sculptures on its grounds.Photo: 'Man on Horse', bronze sculpture by Fernando Botero (Colombian), 1992Photo: A view of the nearby Knesset, the home of the Israeli Parliament. 120 lawmakers serve in the Parliament.Photo: In the late afternoon, we changed cars and guides (who had the proper credentials) to enable a visit to Bethlehem.  Since Bethlehem is in the West Bank and sometimes the source of trouble, one never knows until the last minute whether a trip will be possible.  This is a view of Manger Square upon our arrival in Bethlehem.Photo: A Jerusalem Cross in Bethlehem.  The four small crosses are said to represent the four gospels or the four directions in which the Word of Christ spread.  Alternatively, the total of five crosses represents the wounds of Christ at crucifixion.Photo: Totally by chance, our visit to Bethlehem was on January 6.  In many Christian churches, January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings and the end of the Christmas season. However, for the Eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity, January 6 is celebrated as Christmas. One of the Eastern Orthodox patriarchs was in Bethlehem this day to celebrate Christmas.Photo: Photo: Today, the Church of the Nativity is administered jointly by Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian clerics.  Over the years, there have been many disputes over the operation of this holy site.Photo: The 14 point silver star, believed to mark the spot where Jesus was born.Photo: The Grotto of the NativityPhoto: The Grotto is administered by the Greek Orthodox Church.Photo: The church dates from the 6th century.Photo: St. Catherine's Catholic Church next door--from here, Midnight Mass is broadcast around the world each Christmas. We happened to arrive at this church in the late afternoon just as an Epiphany Mass was concluding.Photo: The bishop at the end of the Epiphany MassPhoto: The clerics begin to leave the church during the recessional.Photo: As the recessional began, Christmas carols filled the church.  Imagine Christmas in Bethlehem--this was a moving and magical moment.Photo: St. Catherine's Church was built in the 1880s by Franciscans but monasteries have occupied this site for over 1,500 years.Photo: The lower level of the church contains burial places of 1st century Christians.Photo: Yasser Arafat with his Christian wife attended many midnight Masses in this church on ChristmasPhoto: The bishop filed out near the end of the recessional.Photo: He was followed by a large number of nuns and then the rest of the congregation, all singing Christmas carols.Photo: Statue of St. Jerome with another of St. Catherine in the background. St. Jerome settled in Bethlehem in the 4th century and did much of his work on the Vulgate Bible here.Photo: European Crusaders ruled Bethlehem until the late 12th century before Turkish Muslims conquered the area and held it for about 400 years.Photo: Scenes of modern day Bethlehem as we leave town.Photo: Bethlehem has a population of about 60,000.Photo: Since 1995, Bethlehem has been under Palestinian control.Photo: The Palestinians have initiated programs for economic recovery and tourism.Photo: The family of our driver into and out of Bethlehem owned this large, religious goods shop in Bethlehem.  He told us on the ride that during the trouble in the West Bank, this shop was closed for seven years.  During that time, he moved to Los Angeles and sent money home to support the family that remained behind.