We left early in the morning, checked out of the hotel and hit a few places on the way to Jerusalem. The first major stop was Jericho. It is controlled by Palistinians so we had to go through a check point. Our driver Khaleel is amazing! He goes so fast and gets a 40 foot bus through very tight spaces. It's awesome! We saw a sycamore tree like Zachaeus climbed up (again of course they claimed it was the one, but who knows). We also stood on a hill around the area where Jesus was tempted in the Wilderness. Afterwards, we stopped at a glass shop where they sold hand blown glass from Hebron, which is like what Hatch, NM is to green chili, to glass. The dude banged the glasses together over and over again and they didn't break. It was a cool shop, but again, very expensive. After we got on the road again, we saw some Bedouin communities. I was drawn to them. They hunt and take care of their animals and when they run out of food, the move their comminities to somewehere else. They just travel around all the time. I don't think there is a United Methodist Church so I began to make plans to start Bedouin UMC here in the deserts of Israel. :-) The funniest thing was that some of their temporary houses had sattelite dishes attached to them!
From there we went to Jerusalem and Mike played a song for us and as it ended we drove out of a tunnel and saw this huge city right below us. It was awesome! We drove through the city into Bethlehem where we went to several places. Bethlehem is controlled by the Palistinians and Christians, so there was a checkpoint there also. I don't always understand all the gated communities, but there are tons of them for lots of different reasons. There are illegal squatters in some places that fence themselves in and then there are different people that own different parts of the country. It is all mixed up and it is clear that there is a lot of hate here. Everyone that is 18 has to go into the army for 2 or 3 years so there are tons of young people with machine guns all around. While we were here we went to the place where Jesus was born. There is huge church that is split between Catholics and Orthodox, so there are several different churches in one building. We went down to the caves where the manger was. It was at least close to the real place, but they had a star that supposedly marked the exact spot. Who knows?!?!?!
It was funny because it was very crowded and people were rude and pushing. I got knocked into a bench by someone and hit my knee. It hurt a couple of days later when i went into the salty Dead Sea! We then went to a shop and i talked to this girl that moved from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and she said she likes it better in Bethlehem because there are a lot of Christains and it is more calm and peaceful. It was interesting to hear her perspective on things and she said there are only bands that play there like one or two times a year. I need to start lining up a tour! :-) We saw a lot of Jerusalem driving around and got to our hotel. We were all so tired by this day! I crashed somewhere around 9.