Today, we woke up in Bethlehem.  We traveled first to Dar al Kalima, a college dedicated to fine arts and bringing this reality and creativity and identity to Palestine.  We met with Dr Nuha Khoury, a very impressive woman.  Dr. Khoury has traveled to Seattle.  She told me she met the nicest people she has ever met there.  I explained that I felt the same about the people of Bethlehem.  She explained, the college is part of the wider work of Diyar – which is based in the International Center of Bethlehem.  I visited here last year with our group then.

nouha bethlehem

All of this was the vision of Lutheran Pastor Mitri Raheb who we met last year here, and who has been to Seattle on several occasions.   I commend anything and everything he has written.  His book Bethlehem Besieged is particularly powerful.

We traveled the short distance to the Sisters of Charity Orphanage within the grounds of the Holy Family Hospital.  It is usually known as the St Vincent Creche.  Here babies are taken in from all over the West Bank.  These babies are taken in from young mothers, often raped, sometimes by their own family members.  Young Muslim women can face death if found to be pregnant out of wedlock.  This was a very moving visit.  I have to say my wife and I and most in our group shed a few tears here.  The nun who came to greet us and tell us the stories was a saint of God, who has done this for 19 years.  She herself became emotional just telling us the stories.  This young baby was only 3 years old, and had come to them from Nablus just yesterday.

Baby Bethlehem
Ongoing fund-raising for the orphanage is complicated as they cannot receive checks, and wire transfers may not be straight-forward. The most effective form of support is to bring cash, or entrust such cash to someone you trust to deliver for you.  I can safely say we brought cash to give and most people emptied their pockets before our time was over.  They keep the children until they are 6 years old.  This is a class full of them

orphanage bethlehem

After this visit, we celebrated Eucharist in their chapel.

Holy Family Hospital Bethlehem

This group can sing, and on this day, we sang O Little Town of Bethlehem

After a wonderful lunch we headed to the Shepherd’s Fields.  From here you can clearly see the Jewish settlements on West Bank territory, the wall and military roads dividing them, and Bedouin Shepherds moving their sheep through the valley, an amazing picture of the expanse of time, and the complexity of this place.

From there we went to the Church of the Nativity, where we visited the birthplace of Jesus.  This too is always a moving visit.    This video gives you a hint of what it is like to descend down into the cave.