Palestine Bethlehem – The birthplace of Christ.

While traversing the border from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in Palestine, this photogenic boy kept looking back at me.

I got off the bus in Bethlehem and met Ashraf shortly after.

I had promised a local taxi driver, Ashraf, I’d post his details up on my blog. You can reach him via email or cell phone if you need a driver or a guide in Palestine. He speaks good self-taught english and I’d like to help in any small way as business in his field ain’t exactly booming these days. If anybody requires a local perspective on the conflict of his country, he would be happy to enlighten you with tales. He knew the best places to visit given the time frame that I had which wasn’t long. He asked me if Id like to visit a souvenir shop. Normally I’d say no. Although I’m not a souvenir shopper,  I dread to think the appearance of my fridge if I bought a magnet from each of the 150++ cities I had visited, I was happy to oblige. I wanted to speak with more locals and given that my Arabic language is poor to mediocre at best, I thought it would be a great chance for me to ask more questions in English about living in Palestine. I sat down with the shop owner over a local beer, and she was happy to answer all my inquisitive questions. It also turned out that I was the only customer that day.

Ashraf seemed like a kind soul who is living through an unfortunate time in his country. The sacrifices he made for his family and his stint in the army reminded me of my uncles in Vietnam who went through similar events during the war. I took a fond liking to him. Despite the hardships that he faced and the issues that his family  is still fighting through, he was an earnest man with a big genuine smile on his face. He stood next to bus, waiting for me to board it back to Israel and only drove off after the bus fully boarded and left to ensure I was on my way safely. I remember the look on his face as we said our goodbyes like he were sending off a friend.

Before I left, he invited me to have dinner with his family of 30 for iftar at his home. If it were not for plans I had that evening back in Jerusalem, I would have happily taken up on his offer. He asked if it was ok that he stopped at a few places to pick up some bread and food for the celebration back home and I was thrilled to see how the locals shopped and preferred to steer away from the tourist trail.  I use the word tourist trail with a pinch of salt, as I did not see any tourists anywhere, aside for the few inside the church of Nativity.

Ashraf and I climbed a tree as he wanted to show me a panoramic view of Bethlehem.

With fifteen lamps burning around the spot, my hand is on a fourteen-point silver star embedded in white marble indicating the birthplace of Christ. An inscription reads, “de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est” (Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary).

North East of the Judean desert near Mar Saba monastery this little boy calls to me. “My friend, My friend, My friend”. He is an orphan and he lives here in the rocks, as a bedouin.

The Israeli Wall in Palestine. It has the word WHATEVER spelt backwards n the wall.