Our group was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in the holy land.  We spent the first few days in Bethlehem and then traveled to Jerusalem.  I have a lot of pictures and stories to share, so I have tried to set up this page as a photo journal of the trip.  For quicker load times, I divided the photos into several pages.
Dec. 21-23  Dec. 24-25  Dec. 26  Dec. 27-28

December 24, Christmas Eve, we spent the day exploring the streets of Bethlehem
 and attended Christmas Eve services at two different churches.
After being awakened in the morning by the marching bands preparing for the parade, we wandered around through the city and did some shopping.  The people of Bethlehem are very friendly and it was much more enjoyable to walk in the streets of Bethlehem than in Cairo.  Hmm... I wonder if any volunteers are needed here.
Writing postcards to mail in Bethlehem (above)
For lunch we had felafel, maybe the most common food in Israel and Palestine.  It is available on most street corners and is very similar to the tamaya we eat here in Egypt.
On Christmas Eve day, there was a parade through Bethlehem, which culminated in a religious procession outside the Church of the Nativity when the patriarch of the church arrived.  It was very cold, especially for those of us who don't have many warm clothes here and it was hard to see because of the crowds, but we stayed until the end.
Not unlike a parade in the US, every school marching band, boy scout and girl scout troop, military organization, and bagpipe player was proudly marching through the streets of Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of Christ in the land where he was born.
Warming up with some coffee, tea, and hot chocolate at a coffee shop after the parade
Christmas Eve we attended worship at the Lutheran church in Bethlehem and then enjoyed dinner at a nice restaurant.  The electricity went out briefly during dinner, so it's a good thing we got candles at church!
The Christmas Eve service at the Lutheran church was a candlelight service in English, Arabic, and German.  We sang Christmas carols in all three languages simultaneously!
After dinner and a short nap, we walked over the St. Catherine's, the Catholic part of the Church of the Nativity, for midnight mass.  It was extremely crowded, so we had to stand and still couldn't see well, but we could hear the mass in various languages.
On Christmas day we traveled from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, where we spent the afternoon wandering around Jerusalem.  It was cold and very rainy - we saw a lot more rain on this trip than we have in 4 months in Cairo.

The streets of Jerusalem are narrow and crowded, but very friendly and colorful.

I was finally able to buy oregano - something I haven't found in Cairo yet!

On our first day in Jerusalem, it was so cold and wet outside that sightseeing didn't last long.  Instead we went back to the hostel (a little dumpy, but well-priced for our missionary salaries) to get warm and dry.
Bunk beds for seven! Matt fell through the first bunk he tried - I guess you get what you pay for! Rachel thawed my wet, frozen feet with a hairdryer - what a nice friend!

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