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The Shepherd's Guild

The Holy Land - Bethlehem, Beit Sahour & Jericho

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In Bethlehem or nearby:

  • Church of the Nativity This is the oldest church in the Holy Land still in use. The original church was constructed under the patronage of Constantine’s mother, Helena, who came on a pilgrimage to Palestine in 325 AD to investigate the sites associated with the life of Jesus Christ which had been revered since the early days of Christianity. Helena chose to the Grotto of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, as the site for the huge basilica which was completed  in 339 AD. 
  
          Inside the Church, two sets of stairs on either side of the altar lead down into the Grotto, the site where Jesus was born. A silver       star embedded in white marble and bearing the Latin inscription “Here of the Virgin Mary Christ was born” marks the site.

  • Milk Grotto  According to tradition, the Milk Grotto is where Mother Mary nursed baby Jesus while hiding there from Herod’s soldiers before going to Egypt. Located southeast of the Basilica, it is an irregular Grotto hewn out of soft white rock.  It is believed that some drops of Mary’s milk trickled, turning the rock white. Revered by Christians and Muslims alike, the milk-white rock is famous for its healing powers and reputed ability of making nursing easier for women.

  • Manger Square  This vast esplanade between the Mosque of Omar and the Church of the Nativity constitutes the tourist centre of Bethlehem. The square as well as much of the Old city underwent renovation from 1998 to 2000. Many events  throughout the year take place here, culminating in Christmas Eve, or eves, since the birth of Jesus is celebrated three times: on December 25 by Catholics, January 7 by the Orthodox, and January 19 by Armenians. There are frequent cultural exhibitions, concerts and conferences at the Bethlehem Peace Centre at the square (Tel: 02-276 6677 ww.peacecenter.org) and at the nearby International Centre of Bethlehem (www.annadwa.org, Tel: 02-2770047) just off the square, housing the Al-Kahf Gallery and the Dar Annadwa Arts & Crafts Centre (open daily except Sunday 9:30-19:00) which are well worth a visit.

The Tourism Office (Tel: 02-276 6677) and a bookshop (most books in English) also selling some souvenirs are on the ground floor of the peace centre.


  • Shepherds Field It is located in the town of Beit Sahour 2km east of Bethlehem. This is the site where the angel of the Lord appeared before the shepherds bringing them the good tidings of the birth of Jesus, joined with a multitude of heavenly hosts, who sang ” Glory to God In the Highest and on Earth, Peace among men”.

  • St. Theodosius Monastery  (Greek Orthodox) Built by Theodosius in 500 AD, the monastery is located east of the historic village of Ubediyyeh12km east of Bethlehem. A white-walled cave marks the burial site of St. Theodosius. Tradition has it that the wise men rested here after God warned them in a dream that they should not return to Herod.

  • St. Saba Monastery A drive of about 6 kilometers east of Shepherd’s Field down a winding road takes you to the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Mar Saba. Built into a cliff, it has a spectacular view overlooking the gorge of the Kidron Valley and was part of the grand tour of Palestine during the 19th century. The founder, St. Saba, came from Cappadocia in the fifth century. There are legends about St. Saba having lived in a cave with a lion for many years. St. Saba died at age 94, and his corpse is still preserved in the Church at the monastery. The monastery has 110 rooms, though today there are only a few monks residing in it. The monks are friendly and hospitable, but long-established tradition prevents the entry of women, who must enjoy the scenery from outside.

  • Herodium  Built in a circular shape on top of a hill 6km southeast of Bethlehem, this fortress includes the remains of a huge palace built by King Herod for his wife in 37 BC. The palace contained luxurious, round walled buildings, fortified chambers, and baths and terraced gardens.Fort Herodion hill dominates the landscape and offers an impressive view of theDead Sea.

  • Rachel’s Tomb – Belal’s Mosque This small building marks the traditional Tomb of Rachel, Jacob’s wife. It is considered holy to Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The present sanctuary and mosque were built during the Ottoman period and are situated on the Jerusalem-Hebron Road near the northern entrance of Bethlehem.

  • Solomon’s Pools Hidden among very tall pine trees in a small valley 4km south of Bethlehem, Solomon’s Pools consist of three huge rectangular reservoirs of stone and masonry that can hold 160.000 cubic meters of water. Although tradition attributes these to King Solomon, the pools almost certainly date from the time of Herod, and may have been conceived by Pontius Pilate. In the past, the reservoirs collected spring and rainwater and pumped it to Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Qalat al-Burak, an Ottoman fortress dating back to the 17th century is located near the pools. The fortress was built to protect Solomon’s Pools water source.

  • St. George’s Church– Al-Khader  Every year on May 5, there is a pilgrimage to theal-Khader Church, which was built in 1600 AD and rebuilt in 1912. The pilgrimage is in honor of Saint George (in Arabic al-Khader), the soldier monk who slew the dragon; he  is venerated for being able to ward off the evil eye. Islamic tradition has it that he left his native Lydda, where he was born, and settled here in this village which bears his name. Muslims and Christians come together annually on this day to celebrate their common protector, to whom many different blessings are attributed. Saint George is also the patron saint of farmers, travelers and the mentally sick. According to a popular belief, lunatics were chained to a ring in the walls of the courtyard here in order for them to be delivered from their insanity due to the intervention of Saint George.

(Jerusalem-Hebron Road, al-Khader Gate; Tel: 02-274 3233, daily8:00-12:00 and 15:00-19:00. Free  entry).

  • Beit Jala Approximately two kilometers west of Bethlehem is Beit Jala, a town set among olive groves and vineyards with stunning stone masonry and a spectacular view of Jerusalem. The town’s unique location and moderate weather make it a popular summer destination for visitors in search of a clean, peaceful environment and beautiful scenery. In recent year, Beit Jala has become well known for its modern hotels and good restaurants, which offer a variety of food to please different tastes. Olive oil is one of the town’s main products. It has a unique taste characteristic of the trees in the area. One of the most important sights in Beit Jala is the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, established in 1925 and named for the patron saint of Beit Jala.

  • Beit Sahour  Beit Sahour is located southeast of Bethlehem. It is the scene of the fields of olives, well-known as Shepherd’s Field, the place where the angel announced to the shepherds the birth of Jesus Christ. There are two points of interest here: a Franciscan chapel, and a Greek Orthodox church that was built over a cave in the fifth century. There also are some exceptionally old olive trees in the field. While in the town, be sure to ask about theBeit Sahour Municipality Folklore Museum.

  • Tomb of Moses/ Maqam an Nabi Musa This Muslim monument to Moses is originally thought to have been built as a site to view the traditional burial spot of Moses on Mount Nebo from Jericho. However, local Palestinian Muslim folklore later on attributed the site in Jericho as the actual resting place of Moses who's remains were brought across the Jordan River from Mount Nebo by Salahaddin during the Crusades. The complex is open to the public and contains a coffin decorated in colourful carpets that is said to hold the remains of Moses. Local Bedouins call the rocks surrounding the complex Moses rocks (Arabic: احجار موسى‎, ihjar Mousa) and make them into protective amulets to sell to visitors.
  • Mountain of Temptation. Hike up to or take the cable car up to the mountain believed to be the site where Jesus was tempted by the devil. On the top of the mountain is an ancient Greek Orthodox Monastery. 
  •    Jesus' Baptismal site/ Qasr al Yahoud. Located nearby Jericho on the Jordan River is the site where Jesus was baptised by John in the Jordan River(this site in Jericho is recognized as the authentic site as opposed to the fake, touristy one set up in Northern Israel at Yardenit). It is also believed to be the spot described in the Old Testament where the Israelites crossed the river to enter the Land of Canaan.
  •    Monastery of St. Gerasimus of the Jordan (Deir Hajla) (Southeast of Jericho, along road #90). The Greek Orthodox monastery of Deir Hajla near Jericho commemorates St. Gerasimus, whose lavra was nearby. Gerasimus left his family wealth and worldly affairs to become a monk. He departed for the region Thebaid in the Egyptian desert, later again returning to his native Lycia. About the middle of 5th century Saint Gerasimus went to Palestine and settled in wilderness near the Jordan River. There he established a monastery and became known for his righteous life of asceticism and prayer. The story of Gerasimus and the lion, when the saint tamed the animal by removing a thorn from its paw and taught it obedience, became widely known in the Christian world. He is reputed to have attended to the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451.The history of the monastery is also linked to another Christian narrative. Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus were said to have found refuge in a cave here during their flight from Herod. An underground chapel was built on the spot where the Holy Family is believed to have spent the night. The crypt floor also contains the bones of monks who were massacred during the Persian conquest of the Holy Land. 
  • Sycamore Tree of Jericho (city-centre). This tree is referenced in the Bible due to it's association with Jesus' visit to Jericho: "Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. Now a man named Zacchaeus was there; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to get a look at Jesus, but being a short man he could not see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, because Jesus was going to pass that way" (Luke 19:1-4, NET Bible).
sources: OrthodoxWiki, Wikipedia, "Sacred Destinations"and travel sites

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Monastery of St. Gerasimus of the Jordan