Since Bethlehem is located in the West Bank, we had to cross through the security fence. The fence was built to protect the Jewish people from Hamas snipers.
Upon entering Bethlehem, we had to walk several blocks down the main street to reach the church.
The Church of the Nativity marks the traditional place of Jesus’ birthplace. This is the oldest church that has been in continuous use. It was originally built in 325 AD.
This mosaic dates back to the time of the Crusaders.
Here is the plaza in front of the church. If you pause for even a second, the street vendors immediately try to sell you something.
Bethlehem Square - Site of Christmas Eve Services televised around the world
The Basilica of Nativity was extensively repaired by the Crusaders in the 12th century. Some of the original floor mosaic is viewable through a Plexi-glass panel in the floor.
The traditional manger site is on a lower level. Over the years reconstruction and repairs have raised the level of the church floor.
The star on the floor under the altar marks the spot where it is believed that the manger was located. It is possible to reach down through the hole and touch the original stone.
Nearby is another altar to represent the arrival of the wise men. Since the wise men came to a house to see Jesus, this is unlikely to be the exact place.
In the next room are ancient tapestries dating back to the time of the Crusaders.
The church is divided into different sections, since the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic churches all have claims on the site.
Outside in an enclosed courtyard is a statue of St Jerome, who was responsible for translating the Hebrew Scriptures into the Latin Vulgate.