May 6, 2008

Caves everywhere...

We're back...

Right now I'm too tired to even consider blogging about the profundities of our trip to the Holy Land. It was awesome. Charlene and I saw so many things, they are a blur in our minds, and we haven't digested them at all.

But here's an interesting (at least to me) historical note. I have always tended to disregard the story that the stable where Jesus was born was a cave. It sounded a bit improbable. A cave?.

Actually, it would be improbable for it not to have been a cave. Judea is mostly limestone, which forms caves very easily. You see caves everywhere! And the pale limestone makes for very clean and pleasant cavities----not at all dirty or gloomy. People in Judea still build houses in front of, or over, caves. You can see them dotted in strata along the hillsides. Or you see caves with fences across the front, for livestock.

Ancient Bethlehem was just a little place, about the size of a football field, with one or two-room houses built over caves. There would not have been an inn; you would stay in someone's home. with your relatives presumably. And the cave/stable would be a reasonable retreat to gain a bit of privacy for a birth.

This is a picture of an excavated cave, in the Church of the Nativity complex. It's just a few steps from where Jesus was born. (Those columns have been added to ensure support of the roof.)

Cave, Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Also strange and intriguing to me was how small and close-together things in Israel are. Nothing is remote, in our sense of the word. You could drive from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in 5 minutes, if it were not for the security checkpoints. Or to the Dead Sea in half an hour. And it's very common to be able to stand on a high place and point out a dozen famous historical sites.

Posted by John Weidner at May 6, 2008 6:54 AM
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