Mary and I had a choice on our 2009 bus tour to make an afternoon visit to either East Jerusalem or the not too distant West Bank town of Bethlehem and, being Christian, we chose Bethlehem. Like the Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean (also partially on the Israeli-Egyptian border) Bethlehem is part of a Palestinian Territory nevertheless carefully overseen by Israel. Its population is primarily Muslim but among the Palestinians there are many Christians. One major difference between the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza strip is that the first is governed by the Palestinian Authority and the second by Hamas. As you will see in the third picture below, a wall separates Jerusalem from the West Bank. The wall is necessary from the Israeli point of view to keep “terrorists” out but, as you will see in that same photo, the residents of Bethlehem hate it. One reason is that the wall makes it difficult for those who hold jobs in Israel to get to work in the morning.
Given the need to balance the Israeli restrictions on Bethlehem and its “independence” from Israel, it was necessary for us to take a taxi to an entrance into Bethlehem, show our passports, then follow a tunnel (see the first photo) into the town itself. By prior arrangement lunch was graciously served at a restaurant (see the second photo) once we got through the tunnel. The last photo is of Mary in Manger Square, just in front of The Church of the Nativity shown on Western television every Christmas Eve. The enormous number of pilgrims wanting to visit the site of Jesus’s birth in the Church made it necessary for the men in our group to get out of line in favor of the women.