I can hardly keep track of what day it is any more. We are so busy all day and constantly doing things I barely have time to think! This morning we had an extra speaker thrown in before church, so I got up early to hear what he had to say. We then went to service at the Christmas Lutheran Church here in Bethlehem, a church Presbyterians have been partnered with for a long time. It was beautiful to worship in both English and Arabic, our voices and languages working together as Christians to worship one God. I wish I could speak Arabic because it sounds like such a beautiful language and some of the Biblical translations to Arabic are much more poetic and meaningful than English. The church is gorgeous, the people wonderful, and it was incredible to be in worship Ina church so full some people had to stand.
After church we had free time for lunch and to wander around. Of course I went to Stars and Bucks- which is NOT the official Starbucks, though there is one in Bethlehem- for some coffee. We also had an incredibly delicious falafel sandwich wrapped up in fresh pita bread that was life changing. I need to find out how to get this quality of pita bread and falafel back home!
After lunch we had a few options, and I of course chose to visit the Greek Orthodox Monestary I am not able to enter because I'm a rebel who likes to challenge sexism whenever possible. Of course we couldn't go in, and although I sent my camera in with a friend there was no photography allowed. According to the men the walls were covered in beautiful paintings, "Better than the Louvre" according to one. We did get to tour around the outside and had wonderful tour guides who gave us an herb that when made into a tea helps soothe an upset stomach, kept us cool in the heat with water from the fresh, cold well, and we had a wonderful time chatting with them about their lives.
The Monestary was built 1,600 years ago, and currently 13 monks live there. Before the construction of the Monestary, the minks lived in the hillsides in caves that go into the mountain 100 meters. At one point 5,000 monks lived in the caves! You can also see the Dead Sea and Jordan from the hills above the Monestary.
Back on the bus again, we headed to Shephard's Field, where the angel Gabriel appeared to the Shephard's the night Christ was born. It may it may not have been the actual cave in the field where those specific shephards were staying, but there is a cave that is typical of what it would have looked like at the time. The church built above the cave is spectacular, both the artwork and the acoustics. Hearing 30 people sing and have it turned into beautiful music was magical. I will post the audio of our singing as soon as I get home and can get it on my computer.
We then rushed back to the ICB for more speakers. Then John and I left for dinner with the family of one of his coworkers who grew up in Bethlehem. They were so wonderful to host us and feed us such delicious food, and I loved talking to them. I tried even more new foods and loved them all! Getting a sense if what life is like in Bethlehem and the West Bank was refreshing to hear. They are such a delightful family and I hope to keep in touch. I leaned that fresh lemon juice with mint is the most amazing drink ever, and I will definitely have to make some when I get home!
We have a few more days in Bethlehem, and I can't wait to see and do more!