Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas in Bethlehem

The bells of the nativity church echo across the valley, summoning the crowds thronging Bethlehem’s sleepless streets. With security guards and fences to keep the multitudes of worshippers in check, it looks more like a scene from a New York nightclub than a midnight Christmas mass.

Huddling in line together, old women clutch rosaries to their chests murmuring prayers to the night sky, children sleep in haphazard positions in their parents' arms, and tourists buzz excitedly, their cameras creating a flurry of flashing lights.

 Stepping into the cavernous hall of the church I take my place among the rows of visitors pressing against the walls as they crane their necks to view a series of religious rites meticulously passed down from one devout generation to the next.

Incense permeates the air, and a man behind me hums softly. Standing in a drafty church thronged by the devout and the curious, my heart warms to the elaborate celebration of such a simple message. Peace.

An Italian nun presses my hand and wishes me a Buon Natale. I return her wish before ducking back outside. The crowds circling the perimeter of the church have increased, and guards with assault rifles carelessly slung over their shoulders eye their flock wearily. 

The lights from a nearby Israeli settlement flicker and Jerusalem’s silhouette can be seen rising above the separation barrier. Just beyond the small towns flanking Bethlehem, the desert hills are bathed in moonlight and exuding the borrowed peace of a Christmas Eve.


  1. Wonderfully written. I hope you'll win the competition.

  2. Exquisitely written. Just stunning, Nikki. A great story. It's a part of the world I want to return to and spend more time in and your story makes me want to do so more than ever.

    Thank you so much for entering! Best of luck!

  3. It's the sense of peace that fills your heart that makes you feel happy for no particular reason...beautifully written...

  4. A beautiful scene. The photo is gorgeous but the story took me away to that world. I hope to visit some day, but in the meantime, I will steep in the beauty of your story.

  5. Wow! Sounds sensational - but don't know if I could handle all the religious connotations ...

    Good luck with the competition!

  6. Beautiful writing, and I love the photo!

    Can I add your site to my blogroll?

  7. Thank you for all the wonderful comments! I really love reading them, and I'm glad you enjoyed reading this post. :)

    @rzemansky, Thank you so much :) I would be delighted to be on your blogroll.

  8. Hi Nikki,

    Congrats on your win!

    Could you please get in touch with me ( so I can send you the Trourist notebook?