I travelled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem by bus. You have to take the 231 bus from the Damascus Gate Bus station or it is simpler to catch it at any of the stops along Hebron Road which is what I did. This is a Palestinian bus and runs 7 days a week, it is not one of the Sherut vans but a big modern bus. It follows a roundabout route to get around the wall and takes 40 min, cost 6.80 shekels, buy your ticket from the driver. Bethlehem is located in the West Bank which is administered by the Palestinian Authority and the people who live there have different passports to the people that live in Israel. They also cannot use Ben Gurion Airport, they have to travel to Amman in Jordan and fly out from there. Israeli’s that wish to enter the West Bank need a special permit, this is because of the risk of kidnapping, foreigners are free to travel to both regions. When you leave Israel for the West Bank you pass through a border check point but you do not have to stop, when coming back you have to go through a check similar to an Airport security check. The exception to this rule is if you hire a special taxi which has a separate checkpoint and does not always get stopped. I did this when returning from Bethlehem to Jerusalem and we drove straight through, because I had an early train to catch and did not want to have to change busses 3-4 times with a suitcase, cost 120 shekels.
Shepherds Field – where the angels gave the Shepherds the good news.
Milk Grotto – where Mary spilt some breast milk.
Church of the Nativity – where Jesus was born.
Rachel’s Tomb – mother of Joseph and Benjamin, revered by the Jews. The tomb is located right on the border on the Israeli side which means following a convoluted path and going through security to cross the border and get to the other side. Next I walked to the gate and was told that you can only enter in a vehicle, the guard very kindly flagged down a tour bus that was waiting and I jumped on board for the short ride through the security complex surrounding the tomb. The tomb as it was does not exist, it has been completely covered up for security reasons. Inside no photographs, crowded with Orthodox Jews swaying and praying, some quite loudly.
Jericho – this place is also in Palestine and I got a Sherut from the Bethlehem bus station direct to Jericho for 25 shekels. You get dropped off at the centre of the town and from there I walked to the cable car past the Zacchaeus tree. Cable car costs 60 shekels and takes you to the top of the Mount of Temptation where the devil tested Jesus. A monastery has been built along the cliff face and the stone where Jesus sat is inside.
Fantastic narrative and photography! Great work, Chris, thank you for sharing all this!
Regards, Simmi D. Isaac