On this day we traveled outside of Jerusalem to Bethlehem, but first we made a stop at the Israel Museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. These ancient manuscripts were discovered in caves in the 1940’s and many were well preserved. We got to see a portion of the scroll of Isaiah, one of the only manuscripts completely preserved. It was remarkable to look upon the words of Scripture written so long ago.
Our first stop in Bethlehem, which is located in Palestinian territory, was the wall separating the city from Israel. We spent time walking along the wall and looking at the art and stories covering the wall. After leaving the wall, we visited Bethlehem Bible College for lunch and a lecture from one of their professors on the Israeli-Palestine conflict from a Palestinian Christian perspective. The college is doing great work training up their students to minister in the Middle East. One of the way they fund the school is through their gift shop, which I encourage you to visit here.
Our next stop was the Church of the Nativity, built over the site where tradition says Jesus was born. Unfortunately the place was a bit of a construction zone as some major restorations and renovations are being done, so it didn’t feel very church-like or peaceful. But then I suppose neither did the stable.
Our last stop of the day was a community called Roots which is a farm community run jointly by Israelis and Palestinians. Two members of the community, a rabbi and a Palestinian, shared their stories of how they came to a place of being able to appreciate the other and work jointly for reconciliation on a grassroots level. Roots is hoping to send some members of their community to speak in California in the fall, so click here to learn more about the organization and to find event information.