|Mural from the Dheisha Refugee Camp in Bethlehem|
As we were a little early, we took the chance to wander through the bustling market, one advantage of having Muslim traders who open on a Sunday. Some of us bought strawberries and other delicious fruit.
Christmas Church is an Evangelical Lutheran Church. The pastor is Mitri Rahab, who has written several books, one of which we used in the book club at St Johns. It was a lovely blend of Arabic and English. We had some amazing Arabic songs, as well as some hymns which were well known to us. It was good to see how much we share, even if in a different language.
We were able to join in as we had the words in Arabic and English. It was a shame that the sermon was only in Arabic. One of our party actually had Mitri Rahab’s book with her, so she got him to sign it afterwards.
The group then had a visit to the Church of the Nativity in the centre of Bethlehem, followed by lunch (more delicious falafel) and a bit of browsing around the shops.
Ken and Tracy had been invited to the house of Odette, whom Ken had met while staying in Bethlehem in 2013. We had a feast of zucchini and stuffed vine leaves. It was a chance to catch up with all that had happened over the past two years. All too soon, they had to rejoin the others for the rest of the itinerary.
Back on the coach to go to Shepherds’ Fields where the angels appeared to the shepherds. This is on the outskirts of Bethlehem, just where the Judean desert begins. We saw the caves used by the shepherds and looked at the Church there.
Then on to the Dheisha Refugee Camp. This was where Palestinians living in the villages around Bethlehem fled from the advancing Israeli army in 1948. They are still there some 68 years later. The camp is managed by the UN. We heard about life in the camp, which is extremely hard. However, we also heard encouraging stories of the community working to improve the lives of the people in the camp.
Back at the hotel we had a talk from two palestinian Christians from Beit Jala. They told us of their experience living under occupation with a young family. They described their lives as “challenging”.
Following another lovely dinner we ended the day with Compline. We prayed for all the people we had met.