Today began with a lecture with Fr. Jamal Khader on Religion and Peace in the Holy Land. Fr. Jamal, the Chairperson of the Department of Religious Studies and the Dean of Arts at Bethlehem University, shared his perspectives on the role of religion in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the potential of religion to act as a tool of peace.
After the lecture, the class toured various sites in Bethlehem, including the Bethlehem New Store, which has an on site factory where artisans produce hand-crafted olive-wood pieces.
The class then headed to the village of Beit Sahour to visit Shepherd’s Field, where many Christians believe an angel appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Christ.
After a delicious lunch at a local Bethlehem restaurant, The Tent, we visited the Palestinian Heritage Center, founded by Mrs. Maha Saca in 1991, which aims to preserve Palestinian culture, particularly the arts of embroidery and traditional dressmaking. According to the Center’s website, the Center “produces fair trade, handmade embroidery, crafted by women from villages and refugee camps around the city of Bethlehem.”
The class ended the day at the Church of the Nativity. This basilica, commissioned by Constantine the Great and his mother, Helena, is built over a cave which traditionally marks the birthplace of Jesus.
Tomorrow, the first day of 2017, we will visit the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, and also travel to Jericho and Qumran.