Day 4 (1) Bethlehem - Shepherd field

By the time we entered Bethlehem it was night. Our accommodation was arranged in a new hotel in Bethlehem. Staying a night in Bethlehem took me down the memory lane to the celebration of Christmas as a little boy.
Today Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central west bank, 10 kms south of Jerusalem with a population of thirty thousand. The word Bethlehem means 'house of meat' or 'house of bread'.
Our first destination on Day 4 was Bethlehem Shepherd field. It is located in a village named Beit Sahour. (The name Beit Sahour means "the house of staying up all night.") The field is identified since ancient times with the shepherds who saw the Star of Nativity - "Shepherds kept watch" on that night when Christ was born. From a city guide I read that there are two rival locations for the exact site, one run by the Greek Orthodox and the other by the Franciscans. Both sites have been excavated, and there have been churches and monasteries on both sites since the 4th century or earlier.
We visited The Terra Santa shepherd field. There we could see the caves in which the shepherds lived. The low natural cave or rock shelter in pleasant surroundings and with a fine view of the hills really take one back to the Silent Night. The cave, with soot-blackened roof, has been partly enclosed to make a modern chapel. Above is a modern church (1954) shaped like a tent and decorated with a bronze angel and a star on the top. The paintings in side the church commemorating nativity are marvelous. We could also see ruins of a rectangular monastery founded on a site occupied by nomadic shepherds in the 1st century.
From Bethlehem we proceeded to Jerusalem. First we visited the Mount Olives.
Before we proceed to the holy sites there, the next two posts gives a detailed description of Jerusalem and Mount Olives.

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