Journaling The Journey

Bethlehem – an Easy 5 hour day trip from Jerusalem

Bethlehem Palestine Banksy Separation Wall

Last updated on January 28th, 2023 at 08:12 am

We were excited to go on a short day trip to Bethlehem (which is actually in Palestine).  We started in Jerusalem and surprisingly  it was quite straight forward.  We caught bus #21 from the bus terminal across from the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

Since the bus is operated by a  Palestinian company there isn’t a clear schedule, but it runs quite frequently and the cost was 7 NIS/person.

It is important to bring your passports together with the little white and blue entry visa paper which was issued to us at the border.  Those are necessary on the way back into Israel.

Walled off Hotel Banksy Bethlehem Palestine
Walled Off Hotel

Bethlehem is part of the West Bank which forms the majority of the Palestinian territories, the remainder of which is comprised of the Gaza Strip.

As we are not highly religious people, our focus for this trip was to see the Separation Wall and to understand a little bit more closely the strife between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Separation wall Alice in Wonderland Banksy Bethlehem Palestine
Separation Wall – Alice in Wonderland

The concrete Separation Wall, covered in barbed wire is a threatening reminder of the severity of the situation in Palestine.  It is covered with “graffiti” although most of it is quite poetic and beautiful.  There are a number of pieces done by Banksy present on the wall as  well as framed stories about families caught in this ongoing conflict.

Banksy opened up a hotel facing a corner of the Separation Wall calling it the Walled Off Hotel – dubbed the hotel with the ugliest view.  All are welcome to visit for free (although there is a small gallery that was 15 NIS/person).  There is a second gallery which is free showcasing Palestinian artists.

Walled Off Hotel Bethlehem Banksy
Walled Off Hotel – Banksy Cat

Next to the Walled Off Hotel is a small shop called Wall Mart which sells ladders and paint for any budding artists interested in adding to the “art” on the Separation Wall.

Church of the Nativity Mosaic Bethlehem Palestine
Church of the Nativity Mosaic

Of course no visit to Bethlehem would be complete without visiting the Church of the Nativity.  Christians believe that the church was built on a site where Jesus was born.  The church is quite beautiful and is visited by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.

I experienced a quiet, grounding stillness there – a sense of community and oneness in the grotto of that church.  Pilgrims broke out in a spontaneous rendition of  Holy Night and it was truly quite moving.

Bethlehem Palestine Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity

For the devout Christians there are a few other stops in Bethlehem including the Milk Grotto, Shepherd’s Field, Rachel’s Tomb and the Virgin Mary Well.  Most within close proximity of one another.

There are also a number of refugee camps including Aida (just 2 km north of Bethlehem) which I really wanted to visit but we ran out of time.

Sami of Team Coco Bethlehem Palestine
Sami of Team Coco

During our short visit to Bethlehem we found the people of Palestine to be very warm and welcoming.  We were offered free falafels and tea – such generosity from folks who do not have very much.

We also met Sami who was featured on the Conan O’Brien special about Palestine.  Sami makes amazing tea and is just happy to share it and his story of the day he spent with Team Coco.

Wrap Up – Bethlehem Day Trip

If you are travelling to Israel, a day trip (or longer) to Bethlehem is a must.  First of all there is a lot to see here. Second of all there is a lot to understand here in Palestine.

The separation wall speaks volumes as does all the Banksy art whether on the Wall or in his Off the Wall Hotel.  It was such a pleasure to meet so many of the Palestinians who wanted to share their story.  And it was very important for us to listen and to carry all of those stories with us.

Have you been to Palestine? Did you come for a while or on a day trip from Jerusalem or perhaps Tel Aviv?

We would love to hear from you!

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