Christmas and Easter Christian pilgrim tourism creates peaceful cooperation between the Israel and the Palestine Authority (PA). Christian and Moslim Arabs from Judaea and Samaria are free to visit all the religious sites in Israel. One can only wish that at some time in the future Israelis and Jews from other countries will be allowed to visit religious sites controlled by the PA. In the meantime get prepared for your Christmas visit to “Palestine”. Bethlehem is a quiet battlefield between Moslims and Christians; a battle that the Christians are losing due to lower birth rates and emigration.
Besides being a Christian “attraction”, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity is one of the few octagonal churches in Israel, and as such of great archaeological and architectural value. A socialolgist might find interest in the X-mas TV coverage of the midnight mass in the Church of the Nativity. Here there is a once-in-a-year opportunity to film IDF Officers, Muslim PA officials and Christian Arab Cardinals in a single frame.
The second church mention in the clip is one side of the different traditions of Christian rites. In 384 the pilgrim Egeria was shown the church called “At the Shepherds” in a valley near Bethlehem. There are two enclosures in the eastern part of Beit Sahour that are claimed by different Christian denominations to be the actual ‘Shepherds Field’.
The Greek Orthodox Shepherds Fields Church
The Greek Orthodox site of the Shepherds’ Fields is at Kanisat al-Ruwat in the middle of fields 2 km southeast of Bethlehem.
The Catholic Shepherds Fields Church
The Catholic Chepherds Field was original built by the Empress Helena and belongs to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. This church is 600m to the north of al-Ruwat at Khirbat Siyar al-Ghanim.