Why We Didn’t See Bethlehem

Beautiful view of Jerusalem from the bus window, on our way to the Bethlehem gates, or from Bethlehem…I forget, but isn’t it nice?

Bethlehem has a few important distinctions.

1.) It’s the birthplace of Jesus.

2.) Rachel is buried there. Rachel was the wife of Jacob. Jacob is the ONE who God re-named Israel.

“Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.”[   Genesis 32:28

Now if you want to understand that story better, ya just gotta go read Genesis because an awful lot of strange things happened back in those days of barbarians, much more than we are going to get to today on this blog.

Another beautiful scene near Bethlehem

So of course, many people wish to visit Bethlehem, myself included.

Where’s the problem?

Ah, yes. The problem. You can’t visit Israel without this eventually coming up. You see, Bethlehem belongs under Palestinian Authority in what’s called the West Bank.

Wait. Does that mean Americans can’t visit Bethlehem??


It does not mean that. It means that American government employees and Israelis cannot visit the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, or Golan Heights, with the exception of Bethlehem and Jericho.

I got online today to read the exact stipulations. You can find that information here. We actually didn’t know that on this trip and were under the impression that we were not allowed to go to Bethlehem.

The Gaza Strip is far more unstable than the West Bank, and Americans are strongly advised to not go there, but Bethlehem is not in the Gaza Strip.

So technically, we COULD visit Bethlehem, and most Holy Land tourist groups do so. We weren’t actually with a tourist group from the U.S. We were only taking day excursions with a tour guide from our hotel in Tel Aviv.

I don’t remember where I saw this, but interesting, eh? President Trump was there the week before. Perhaps that’s why they made this sign?

Our tour guide was an Israeli. She can’t visit Palestine, but she was full of fascinating information. Bethlehem wasn’t even a scheduled stop on our tour, but she knew we wanted to see it, so she took us to see the border wall.

Border wall of the West Bank

border wall

Everywhere you go in Israel, security is high, so as I have mentioned in my previous posts, I always felt completely safe.

But the Palestinian/Israeli tensions are still there.

Arabs walking through security, into Bethlehem.

If you look closely, you can read the words on the brown sign, “Rachel’s Tomb”.

Some of what we saw out the window looked exactly like California.

We passed this UN truck at the Bethlehem gate.

Our guide said, “There’s the UN. He is not supposed to be here. He is supposed to be at Golan Heights.”……interesting….

Border wall of Bethlehem. Bethlehem is only around 5 miles from Jerusalem.

Our guide said, “You are here. You have seen the gate to Bethlehem, so really you can say you’ve been to Bethlehem. Okay. We are good. Now we will turn around and see the place where John the Baptist is from.”

That’s right. The next stop in this series will be the birthplace of John the Baptist.

By that time in the day it was around 3 or 4 pm, we’d been touring Jerusalem all day, and my brain lost its ability to take in new information. So the next post will mostly be pictures.


Did you miss the other Israel articles? You can catch up with these links:

Going to Israel

Jerusalem Part 1: Mount of Olives and the Upper Room

Jerusalem Part 2: Where Jesus was Crucified

Via Dolorosa

The Western Wall




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