Happy Christmas!

Despite the war-at-Christmas theme of my last few blog entries, I have been enjoying the build up to Christmas here. People are in a celebratory mood — and the streets of Bethlehem and Beit Sahour reflect the general joy of the season. This week, instead of a regular post, I want to share some of the scenes of the city with you. Enjoy, and have a very happy Christmas!

Happy birthday JesusThese little shops popped up all over Bethlehem at the end of November. Some of them advertized by putting out those enormous blow-up Santas and Frosty-the-Snowmans; this one is a more sedate example. I particularly like the ‘Happy Birthday’ sign above the shop door.

Santa on Star Street BethlehemThis Santa perched over a door on Star Street, Bethlehem, has been waiting for Christmas all year…

A St. Barbara's Day treatFor St. Barbara’s Day, it’s tradition here to make a special treat: bulghur wheat, chick peas, pistachios, dried fruit, coconut, and little candy bits. I got a small dish after church one Sunday, and then my landlady gave me an enormous serving too; it definitely fills you up.

Snowy day in JerusalemOlive trees in the snow, Beit Sahour

Mar Elias 3

The snow surprised everyone. My neighbors told me this is the first time it’s snowed in December for many, many years. Here, you’re seeing a snowy wall in Jerusalem, a snowy olive grove in Beit Sahour, and a faint rainbow arching over Mar Elias (a monastery on the road to Jerusalem, seen from Beit Sahour — the monastery is the low building on the right side of the snowy hill).

Separation Wall, BethlehemThis Christmas tree graffiti is on the Separation Wall near the checkpoint to enter Jerusalem.

Manger Square, BethlehemAnd this Christmas tree is in Manger Square, in front of the Church of the Nativity–and rather dwarfing the church, to be honest!

Star Street

Beit Sahour roundabout

Nazareth Christmas

Stars on Star Street in Bethlehem, the main street of Beit Sahour, and the tree in front of Nazareth’s Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. I hope the Christmas lights stay up until spring.

Nativity Church last minute cleaningBethlehem Christmas Eve parade

Christmas Eve candlesHere are three of my favorite pictures from Christmas Eve in Bethlehem: last-minute cleaning in the Church of the Nativity, a small Santa enjoying a drink and a good view of the Christmas parade, and candles lit by pilgrims heading into the grotto of the nativity at 10.30 tonight.

Manger Square Nativity

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness (Philippians 2:5-7).

Kull sane w-intu salmeen!