Once we finally got to Israel, our first spot we visited was Bethlehem which is in the West Bank. This means we had to go thru several security check points but luckily, Rob has a nice license plate that shows he's a diplomat so we weren't harrased or inspected.
My impressions of this city was that it was very dirty. We went to the Church of the Nativity where we waited with a lot of tourists to see Jesus' birthplace. The first photo shows a wonderful mosaic of a sign announcing this as the Basilica of the Nativity. It was made with tiny tiles & I loved the artistic simplicity. We waited in line to see the area where the manger once stood which is now enshrined in the grotto beneath the choir area of the church. This choir area looked like it was being set-up for a wedding. The stone stairs were slippery & smooth from so many people going down these steps. Once we got to the place this event happened, we were greated by a blackened, soot ceiling from years of candles burning. The area believed to be the spot of his birth is marked by a silver star & had more candles burning. It was dark and gloomy and made me sad that such a place wasn't filled with light & warmth.
Outside the church, Rob treated us to freshly squeezed orange, pomegranate juice. It was devine!
Leaving the West Bank was interesting too. We learned that drivers in Israel follow different rules than we do....they are so crazy. We saw two accidents. Rob pointed out how people will just stop on the freeway or in the street and back-up or drive between two lanes of traffic.