I would guess most tour groups going to Israel make a stop in Bethlehem to see the place Jesus was born. The Church of the Nativity was commissioned to be built by Constantine and his mother Helena in 327 AD over the cave which is traditionally believed to be the very spot Jesus was born.
We first stopped in this room where Jerome translated the Hebrew/Greek Scriptures into the Latin vulgar.
and this is the spot they say is where Mary gave birth to Jesus.
And this is the rest of the cave where they lived.
I think it would have been better had they just left the cave the way it was rather than build some church over it. It would feel more real to me. And who really knows that this is the spot. What matters, is that He did come. A King born in a cave, not in a castle. Welcomed by shepherds, not the politically elite. Born to rescue us.
God created us for intimacy with Him. When we turned our backs on Him, He promised to come after us. He sent personal messengers; He used beauty and affliction to recapture our hearts. After all else failed, He conceived the most daring of plans. Under cover of the night, He stole into the enemy's camp incognito, the Ancient of Days disguised as a newborn. The Incarnation, as Phil Yancy reminds us, was a daring raid into enemy territory. The whole world lay under the power of the evil one and we were held in the dungeons of darkness. God risked it all to rescue us...What He is after is us - our laughter, our tears, our dreams, our fears, our heart of hearts. Isaiah 29:13 says "their hearts are far from me". The thought that God wants our heart seems too good to be true. - "The Sacred Romance" by Curtis/Eldredge
4th century mosaic floor rediscovered under this floor in 1934.
Some letters spell Icthus in the center
On the way back...
We stopped at another grocery store to pick up supplies for lunches and snacks. We always had our evening meals in our hotel, but ate in the bus as we would travel along.
It was always interesting at our hotels to eat with our new friends and share stories with each other. Where they were from, how they came to Christ, how many children they have, etc. What a wonderful trip this is!