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So it turns out that there is actually a second Bethlehem in Israel, up in the Jezreel Valley of the north. In fact, there was a church on top of a cave which purported to be the actual birthplace of Jesus. Unfortunately, some Israeli archeologist pronounced the location “of little value,” and the church was plowed over to make room for a house. Not really OK by me, as if one follows the Biblical story of the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, it is more sensible for a woman who was late into her pregnancy to only travel 20 kilometers to another city than more than 100 kilometers. Plus, having walked up the hill of Bethlehem in the south, I can say that it would have been quite the difficult trip for a woman so close to giving birth. Food for thought, but in the northern Bethlehem there is a wall which has been dated to around the time of Jesus’ birth.

And, to follow up to a claim made in a previous post, allow me to explain further the unnaturally and incredibly large amount of food which was put in front of us for Shabbat dinner/Adi’s birthday dinner on Friday night at their home. We arrived and met her family, and were promptly told to sit down and get ready to eat. We did so, but we could have never anticipated just how much food was about to come out. The entire table (which was really 2 long tables put together) was covered with food, and the smaller table off behind me was covered with food. For about 22 people, there was food for something like 7,000 or 8,000 (beating Jesus’ record of the 5,000, although he started with much fewer ingredients whereas Adi’s folks worked for quite some time to make all of that food). That isn’t it, though; quite the opposite, more plates of food were brought as original plates were polished off. It was all delicious, obviously, but the human form can only accept so many calories at any given time before one starts to become ill. I say this because after eating far, FAR more than our fill, out of somewhere in their home (given the sheer scale of food presented to us by that point, I genuinely don’t understand what sort of underground food storage center they must operate in order to have this much prepared food on hand), they brought out two tables’ worth of dessert… all of which was delicious, of course. We were thoroughly, thoroughly full at the end of this experience… enough so that I probably wouldn’t need to eat much of anything for the next weeks (at least). Still, all of that huge quantity of food was all 5-star cuisine 😀

From slightly later historically, and without any Israeli Antiquities Authority possession of the site, there exists near Adi’s house a series of ancient graves of the Maccabees. Adi’s mom took us over there, and we walked in and amongst (and in the case of Adi, Justine, and Théo, crawling through) those ancient graves. Similarly, back at their household, Adi’s mom has a huge collection of ancient pottery fragments, coins, pieces of perhaps stone hookah pipes, and so forth; all verified by the Israel Antiquities Authority and photographed, and then legally given to Adi’s mom as “they already had plenty of those.” I find both of these things fascinating, as she found all of those things in her garden or otherwise in her yard… all I ever find it at home in the yard is either a branch from a tree, or perhaps one of the dogs’ toys 😦

On Saturday afternoon, we went to the spice factory near Adi’s house, where she worked as a teenager. As the photographs will show, the room was a riot of colors of every type, and that doesn’t even begin to describe the panoply of smells… it was like walking into a wall, it was so strong and varied. It was all very, very expensive, but it was also literally as fresh as could possibly be, as right out the back was the fields where all the spices and tea leaves are grown and then processed.

In the late afternoon, we walked down the main street of Bethlehem in the north, stopping for some fresh pressed [they pressed the oranges while you waited] orange juice and strawberries, all of which was quite cheap and quite delicious (I cannot even begin to explain how much I am going to miss cheap and very fresh fruit and vegetables once I leave…). We tried to get into the haunted [i.e. abandoned] house which scared Adi witless in her youth, but unfortunately the place has been locked since then. All in all, an excellent visit to a great place.

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