Why was it Christmas in July? Because we went to Bethlehem, of course! It’s only 10 miles outside of Jerusalem.
Before getting to Bethlehem, we stopped at the Herodion, which was one of Herod the Great’s palaces.
Hanging out in Herod’s palace!
Here’s Herod’s swimming pool. There’s an island in the middle to relax on.
In Bethlehem, we first went to the Church of the Nativity. It’s the oldest continuously-operating church in the world. Since 565, this has been an operating church. It was built to commemorate the exact location of Christ’s birth.
Outside of the church:
The church is in Manger Square. This is the view across the square from the entrance of the church. That’s a mosque across the street.
Inside the church:
See how ancient it looks? The columns came from the original church that was built here in the 300s by Constantine.
Here’s the altar.
Downstairs is the alleged exact location of Christ’s birth, marked by a star :)
How often can you take a picture in front of a sign that says ‘Birthplace of Jesus’?
After the Church of the Nativity, we went a little bit outside of the city to some sites that commemorate the shepherd’s vision.
Here’s a Greek Orthodox church:
It's so colorful! The painting of the shepherds is on the top right.
And a Catholic church:
I loved the paintings in this church.
Then we went to a real shepherd’s field just outside of Bethlehem. I know it was real because of the sheep droppings.
This is probably very much what the scenery looked like for the shepherds on Christmas!
Bethlehem is actually a pretty big, modern city that looks like it would be fun to explore more. In Jesus’ time it was just a tiny town. Bethlehem was also exciting because it was in the West Bank, so you got to see things like Palestinian flags and politically controversial signs.
More than anything, it was really just cool to be in Bethlehem!