Thursday February 12 - Herodium and Bethlehem

Thursday February 12 - Herodium and Bethlehem
Happy Birthday Pastor David and Peggy!
Sure enough, we had blue skies and clearer air this morning, though the wind was still blowing and it was quite chilly.
Sharon and Carolyn led a devotion on the way to our first stop. What a great start to our day!
Our first visit was the Herodium, Herod's summer palace.

We learned what a truly terrible man he was, managing to live to a good age in spite of his path of death and destruction, murder and mayhem. He had this palace built by moving the top of one mountain onto the top of a lower mountain, then creating a fortification. The vast swimming pool at ground level is testament to his decadent lifestyle. As we began our hike to the top through a tunnel, the power failed, leaving us in deep darkness.

 Luckily, there were enough cell phones in the group to light our way to the top. Even as a ruin this is an impressive place, but today it was cold and blustery, so we admired the amazing views and quickly headed back down the exterior ramp. The footing was precarious on both routes, but no casualties.

 Our next stop was Shepherds' Field and the Church of the Angel. It's a lovely, park-like place. We had a hymn, scripture and prayer in the cave that tradition says was occupied by the shepherds who first received the news of Jesus' birth.
Back in Bethlehem we had a bit of retail therapy at the wonderful gift and souvenir shop. The staff presented a Birthday Cake to Pastor David and Peggy.  Cake for all!  Later we took advantage of the opportunity to visit the carvers' wood-working shop below the store.

 Lunch followed, then we moved on to the Church of the Nativity. Amazingly, we were able to go straight down to the cave where Jesus was born. This was a very different experience from what most of us have had in the past. There are usually long lines and huge crowds. After looking and feeling the emotional impact of the place of Jesus' birth, and of the manger, we joined them in singing a carol with the previous group, then had our own brief devotion and
song before moving on. Just wonderful! While there, we visited St. Jerome's cave and chapel and saw other parts of the underground cave complex.
Because we had saved an hour or so of scheduled waiting time, we were able to drive by Solomon's Pools (huge water-storage cisterns, no longer in use for supplying Jerusalem and the area) and get a

close-up look at the wall that separates the Palestinian territory from Israel proper. As we headed back to the hotel for dinner we were reminded that we must pack tonight and be ready to move out of the Jacir Palace early tomorrow morning.

 Link to All Photos for February 12