Hebron/Bethlehem, Israel – A Land in Conflict

by Funhog Family on April 14, 2014

Targeting Peace

Mosque/Synagoge over Abraham's Cave

Warning - Danger Ahead

Abraham's Burial Cave

Today was our day in Palestine (West Bank), as we toured Hebron and Bethlehem. When Kendall decided Israel and wanted to do some sights in the Palestinian territory I decided we would hire a local guide and I am glad I did. Our guide, Sam Salem ([email protected]), picked us up at our hotel and then we drove to Hebron. Sam is a wealth of knowledge, being a native of Bethlehem, and loves to talk about everything from the history to the politics of the region. Entering Hebron we saw a sign prohibiting Israeli citizens from entering the town and that it was dangerous. Hebron is the city filled with giants that Caleb received as an inheritance by trusting in the Lord and wanting the most difficult assignment (Joshua 14:13-15). The vendors in the street catacombs were very pleasant and loved the business. The beggar children were relentless, to the point our guide gave one a coin to get him to leave, but all it did was to encourage him to ask for more money. While in Hebron, we visited the cave Abraham bought from the Canaanites, which was the locations of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Leah, Isaac, and Rebecca’s graves. There was a synagogue over one half of the cave and a mosque over the other. Since it was the Jewish sabbath we went in the mosque side to see some of the tombs.

The Herodian

Herodian Tunnel

After our visit there we loaded up to go to the Herodian. The Herodian was King Herod’s summer palace. It was amazing how he added eight feet to an existing mountain, then built a palace on top of it that went all the way down into the heart of the mountain. Herod’s troops came from this palace when they went to slaughter the innocent babies (Matthew 2:16). We learned something else very fascinating. While at the Herodian we saw another cistern. Our guide told us that all of the old homes in Bethlehem still have and use cisterns to this day. He said in the summer if you live in Bethlehem you get water once a week to fill up your cistern or for newer homes, large barrels on the roof. Then you use that water the rest of the week to drink, cook, wash, and bathe with.

Sam at a Delicious Hole in the Wall Restaraunt

In Bethlehem we went by the shepherd’s fields, an area where it is thought the angels appeared to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20). This area is also where Ruth gleamed in the field of Boaz (Ruth 2). We had a delicious lunch at a local hole in the wall restaurant, where they fed us half of a spit roasted chicken with pita bread and countless dips. The milk grotto, called this because when Mary was nursing baby Jesus two drops of breast milk fell on the floor turning the grotto powdery white, was another stop where it is believed Jesus lived for a year before Joesph was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt and where the Magi came to visit Jesus (Matthew 2). Kendall could not get over the fact that everyone kept pinching the milky white dust off of the milk grotto ceiling and eating it, as it is believed to cure the sick and help with fertility. This area is also believed to be where King David grew up (1 Samuel 16). We then went through the Church of the Nativity and the grotto underneath. It was a crowded place, but since we were with locals we got right in to see where it is believed Jesus was born and where he was laid in a manager. We learned a lot about the politics and unrest in the area and how hard it is to draw a dividing line (like the Gaza Strip) because there are so many Jewish settlements in Palestine (West Bank), some illegal. Our guide said Jews will sometimes buy land in the West Bank and then once they build on it, the Palestinians will say they never sold the land, so it becomes an illegal settlement. Most of the unrest in recent years, our guide says, comes by the hand of radical Jews who are from other countries coming into Israel and creating trouble.

Breakfast fit for a Queen

Blowing Glass

In the Mosque

Kendall’s take:
April 13th: Tours and Tunnels
As we were going along the breakfast line, picking out our food, we came to the cereal. I reached for a bowl as daddy said laughing, “They have silverfish too.” “Yuck!”, I said as I put the bowl back and thoroughly examined the next one I picked up. We ate our “yummy”, actually delicious, breakfast and then hurried down to our private tour guide for the day. We got in his car and drove down the road. He was very talkative and daddy was very attentive. He (our guide) talked so much he included me in a few things that he talked about. Our first stop was in Hebron where Caleb asked permission from Joshua to fight the giants that lived there and take the city. We watched as some men heated glass into liquid and turned it into jars, cups, plates, magnets, perfume bottles – you name it. Then we drove a little further down the road, stopped and walked into a mosque. My shirt was short-sleeved, so I was given a towel-like thing to wear over my arms (women have to have arms and head covered and are not allowed to show them at all). So daddy put my shoes on for me after we visited the mosque, and took them off as we were going in. Our tour guide showed us the tombs of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebecca. We couldn’t see Jacob and Leah’s tomb because the Jews were doing a service (Saturday is the sabbath for them) and they were blocked off by a gate from us so we didn’t disturb them. Then, on our way back we were pressed in on all sides with persistent kids wanting us to buy their bracelets and wares. Daddy kept telling them no, and I tried to not let them get near me.

Camelicious - Yuck!

On our way to Bethlehem we stopped at “the Herodian” – Herod’s summer palace. We learned on our western wall tunnel tour that Herod was a master builder and so he was with what we saw today. He found a mountain that he liked, then he cut the inside out of it and built his summer palace inside the hill. Our private tour guide told us that Herod was most likely living here when Jesus was born because when he ordered his soldiers to go to Bethlehem to kill all the children two and under. (Hebron was very close to Bethlehem). So, instead of having ridden for lots of days, they had to ride maybe only a day to get to Bethlehem. Well, we went into some tunnels next, dug by the zealots when they were hiding from the Romans. They built caves to hide in,and threw the dirt into the water cisterns so that when the Romans saw just dirt, no water, they thought, well no one is living here anymore. But the zealots were living deep in caves underneath. We got to go into those tunnels see Herod’s tomb, and explore in our imaginations. It was a cool experience.

Light Traffic in Bethlehem

We got in the car safely and drove up to Bethlehem. There our guide toured us around “the milk grotto”, where there tradition says that on their way to Egypt they (Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus) stopped for Mary to nurse Jesus. While she was nursing some of her milk fell on the floor, turning the whole place white. Also, if you lick the floor, ceiling, or wall, they say you will have good luck. So we saw people doing that (I think it’s disgusting and tradition also says if you can’t have babies, come here, buy some of the powder from the grotto and you’ll have a baby. Our guide said that it has happened numerous times and the priest’s office is full of baby pictures!) Next thing our guide left us at the Church of the Nativity for an hour while he went shopping. It was his daughter’s birthday.She was turning six. We were given a tour guide of the church and saw the place they say Jesus was born. We also were told about St. Jerome who translated the bible into Latin (both the old and new testament). Then our original guide came back, picked us up and brought us back to our hotel. I had to go potty by the time(and I forgot to tell you we had an enormous lunch!) we set out to find a computer store; we found it, but what daddy wanted to put in the computer, cost $200! While in the U.S. it only cost $45! So, we went back to our hotel and started typing up our stuff ( I got to go potty!) Good-night tonight (or good-morning for you!)

Seperation Wall around Rachel's Tomb

Rocks or Flowers?

Palenstine's Idea of Lady Liberty


Anne Davis April 15, 2014 at 8:40 am

Hello Brian & Kendall,
What a wonderful week you’ve had filled with adventure, history and hiking. We’ve enjoyed traveling through Israel with you two. Have a safe trip home!
Love & Blessings, Annie (Tim too!)

Diane Tuten April 16, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Your brains and bodies must still be recovering from the wonderful information and experience overload!

Sam Eli Salem September 4, 2014 at 8:13 am

Hi Kendall & Brian, what a wonderful report about your trip to Israel ! I was looking for a Bussiness card and found yours. I decided to check what you are up to lately and I am glad I did.

I will visit Atlanta soon including Chatanoogah and will be on a morning show on Monday SEP 15th.

All the best,

Sam Salem
Israel Freelance Tour Guide.

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