After the Mass we walked around the corner and spent some time in one of the nicest gift shops in Bethlehem. Issa owns Holy Land Travel, which set up our pilgrimage, and his family owns and runs this shop. They were generous with their hospitality and their discounts and many were eager to spend some money on gifts for family and friends
After the Gift Shop we were treated to a surprise-the group was honored with an invitation to Issa's parent's house for "Tea." We all had a wonderful time and were deeply honored that Nicholas and Lydia would invite us to their home. The view of Bethlehem from the roof of the house is spectacular!
In the picture below Nicholas, Issa's father, bid Deacon Don farewell as we prepare for our trip to the Church of the Nativity.
Christmas is still some weeks away but the Church of the Nativity was very busy and the wait in the line was a long one. In this picture we have Deacon Don and Fr. Anthony Romero waiting in line.
The Church is currently under major reconstruction and there is scaffolding everywhere. Even so, the wait was well worth it to see the cave in Bethlehem.
After this we journeyed to the birthplace of St. John the Baptist in the mountains outside of Jerusalem, and our last stop of the day was to the village of Emmaus, really only a short distance from Jerusalem.
After dinner, most of us continued into the late evening with a beutiful "night tour" through the City of Jerusalem. The Temple Mount and The Mount of Olives are both well light at the view from either side is simply spectacular. After taking in the panoramic view of the city at night, we went down to Ben Yehuda St. for some ice cream, a little late-night shopping, and a trip to the ATM. It is wonderful to know that there are ATMs in Israel that dispense dollars!
May God bless you this day-you are in our thoughts and prayers always!
—posted by Greg Smithhisler, IHM Liturgist