From HUGer Alexis:
This morning we boarded the bus and took the 9 km drive to Bethlehem, unfortunately having to drop off Yossi (Israelis are not allowed in Palestinian territory) along the way. Our guide for the morning, Adel, hopped on board, and we started in the field of the Shepherds. The field was where the shepherds were standing, according to tradition, when the angel announced the birth of Jesus. A chapel was built on the location in the 4th century AD, but was destroyed in 614 AD by the Persians. A modern chapel is constructed as well on the site, where we sung “I am a sheep.” Afterwards, we traveled to the Church of the Nativity, where underneath the center of the church is the birthplace of Jesus, marked today by a silver star, and the manger where Mary laid him. Early Christians gathered in the area in secret, but Emperor Hadrian tried to have the memory erased by erecting a statue for worship until Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity in 324 AD, tearing down the statue and building a church. Seeing places that might have been the site of important Biblical events was exciting, but even more exciting was to realize how these events happened, and the proof of the event regardless of us being able to pinpoint with undeniable accuracy where they happened.
We had the opportunity to visit a souvenir store which aided the Christian ministry in Bethlehem. After making our purchases and having a bite of lunch, we bid our goodbyes to Adel and Bethlehem. We picked up Yossi again and visited a chapel on the side of the hill overlooking a graveyard containing Oskar Schindler's grave. We talked about Schindler who was a business owner that joined the Nazi party, to save Jewish children, around 1200 in all, who became known as the Schindler children. Since he rescued so many Jews, when he died he was brought to Jerusalem to be buried and honored.
Our next big stop was Zedekiah’s cave, where the stones of the temple were chiseled from. The large artificial cave was a quarry excavated by King Herold the Great to build the temple mount and Wailing Wall (which we’ll see tomorrow!). The cave got its name from having a spring that the people decided were the tears from King Zedekiah, the last king before Israel was invaded and the king’s eyes were gouged out.
Our last stop was the most impactful in my eyes. We visited the Prayer House, which is part of the remaining American Colony. Horatio Spafford, author of the song "It Is Well with My Soul," had a wife and four daughters. They were on their way to France from Chicago when he received an urgent telegram in New York City urging him to return home. He sent his wife and daughters on the liner to France and returned home, only to hear how their ship had been sunk and his daughters had drowned. As he went to France to reunite with his wife, the captain announced when they were close to the area of the sinking. Horatio went to his room, where he wrote "It Is Well with My Soul." They actually had a second family with two daughters and a son, but the son died of scarlet fever. The prayer house today was purchased by one of the daughters, where upstairs they have a prayer room where we spent time praying, drawing, writing, or reflecting with God.