I can read the book or see the movie. I can’t do both. Well, I can, but any time I have, I’ve been disappointed. Nicole Kidman in as Ada Monroe in Cold Mountain? Leonardo DiCaprio as Richard in The Beach? And I won’t even mention what’s his name as Jack Reacher!
I was brought up on The Bible. I used to read a passage every night. I know the ins and outs, the characters, the plots … and being in Bethlehem is a little like being on set; being in the movie rather than watching it.
The Shepherd’s Field is home to a grotto marking the place some think the angel appeared and told the three shepherds of the coming of Christ. The modern church – The Church of the Angels – was designed by Antonio Barluzzi, known as the Architect of the Holy Land, back in 1954. It’s a lovely space. Built to suggest the open sky under which the angel appeared, to my uneducated architectural mind, it captures the essence of the moment.
The church has three frescos: one where the angel announces the birth of Jesus; a second of the shepherds in adoration; and a third of their return to Egypt.
Mind you, there’s said to be a 300-year gap in the literature – or at least in the documenting of where these biblical happenings actually happened – so this, like many other spots in the region, is subject to debate. Whether or not the angel appeared in Beit Sahur is under question. That said, it certainly doesn’t take from the beauty of the place.
Underneath is a cave that was in use a church by the Greek Orthodox until 1955. And from the side of the excavations we could see some Israeli settlements in Palestine. Quite strange to see them nudging their way in and I have to wonder why the Palestinians don’t just build on the land instead.
There are about 1.5 million Palestinians with Israeli passports living in Israel. When I asked how this went down with those who have stayed at home, I was told that it’s not an issue. They might earn their money in Israel, but they spend it in Palestine. Here, they like the US dollar. The ATM offered me Jordanian dinar (?) and the street vendors are happy with shekels. Seems like money is money… I should try to see how far I’d get with some Hungarian forints.