But the town was surprisingly empty. I had expected large crowds to be flocking to the place of Jesus' birth, but the Israeli's had enforced a closure that day and many of the tourists were unable to get in. In fact, the annual Bethlehem Christmas parade was delayed for quite a while because the Israelis would not allow the Catholic bishop past the check point. In the end, the parade went on without the bishop. It consisted of about 30 Palestinian Boy Scout and Girl Scouts banging drums and carrying flags without the guest of honor.
So how did we manage to get in? We went in the back way. Elias, a friend of ours, lived in Bethlehem and came to Jerusalem to get us. He knew the back way and we were able to avoid the Israeli check points.
The below video is from modern Bethlehem and talks about the story of Christ's birth interwoven with the Palestinian peoples hopes for peace this Christmas season. One of the men, Zak, is a friend of mine from the Old City of Jerusalem.
May God grant peace to all people in that part of the world.