Padang Gembala terletak di sebelah timur Bethlehem, di Beit Sahour. Menurut tradisi kuno, di situlah malaikat memberitakan kelahiran Yesus kepada para gembala. Di daerah itu memang ada beberapa goa, tempat perlindungan kawanan domba serta gembala. Di atas salah satu dari goa itu, pada abad 4 didirikan gereja. Pada tahun 614 gereja itu dirusak oleh pasukan Persia.

Sebenarnya ada 2 Gereja Para Gembala. Di atas yang satu berdiri kompleks para biarawan OFM (tahun 1953) dan di atas yang satu lagi ada gereja milik umat Orthodox-Yunani (tahun 1985). Kedua gereja  berjauhan satu sama lain, tetapi kedua-duanya didirikan di atas reruntuhan gereja lama dari zaman Bizantium. Gereja Katolik dibangun berkat bantuan umat Canada. Gereja ini berbentuk kemah para Badui. Nama gerejanya: Gloria in Excelsis. Altar utamanya didukung oleh patung gembala-gembala yang berlutut. Gereja ditutup dengan sebuah kubah. Di bagian dalamnya terdapat patung malaikat-malaikat (Lukas 2:13-14), sedangkan pada tembok-tembok gereja dapat dilihat lukisan yang menggambarkan kelahiran Yesus, kedatangan para malaikat kepada para gembala serta perjalanan para gembala ke Bethlehem.



Beit Sahour, looking east over the Shepherds' Fields, near Bethlehem


Beit Sahour ("house of vigilance") seems to have been established in the mid-13th century AD, although it is not mentioned in Western literature until 1591 AD. According to the latest census, the population of 12,300, includes 80% Christians, the largest proportion in the area. Here is a field said to be where Boaz saw Ruth from Moab gleaning and was attracted to her. Probably nearby David, Jesus' ancestor and shepherd of the family flock, was anointed king by Samuel.


The Catholic chapel, the Sanctuary of the "Gloria in Excelsis Deo," is in an area called Siyar el-Ghanam ("the place for keeping sheep")


Interior Church of the Sheperds


According to Jerome, this was the site of Migdal Eder or "Tower of the Flock," where Jacob grazed his sheep on his journey to Hebron after the death of his beloved wife Rachel. Apparently Migdal Eder was derived from the watchtowers where shepherds kept watch on their grazing sheep.


About 1/4 mile south of the Catholic shepherds' fields is the Greek Orthodox shepherds' fields, a site known as Kaniset el-Ruat (Church of the Shepherds)

Bethlehem is located about 5 miles south-southwest of Jerusalem's Old City, on the ancient north-south route from Galilee through Samaria, to Jerusalem, Hebron and beyond to Beersheba, designated Road 60 today. Surrounded by fertile fields and lush olive groves, the town covers a long, steep limestone ridge, about a mile in length and rising some 2,500 feet above sea-level. From the city limits the stark Judean desert drops off quickly to the east. 14 miles away and 3,790 feet lower is the long, narrow strip of the Dead Sea which, at 1,290 feet below sea-level, is the lowest point on the earth's surface. Tens of millions of devoted believers revere the town Americans, Africans, Australians, Mexicans, Japanese, Germans and other lands. But (this is socking to some of us), Bethlehem is a Palestinian city; no Jews live here; the only Jews are soldiers.



Lampu-lampu hiasan Natal bertebaran di kota Bethlehem yang modern


Perched on a hill at the edge of the Judean desert just 5 miles south of Jerusalem, Bethlehem is the childhood home of the biblical King David. It is also the birthplace of Jesus Christ and has been a major site of Christian pilgrimage since the construction of the Church of the Nativity in the 4th century AD.

The town has been a monastic center for almost as long. In the 5th century AD, St. Jerome built a monastery here and with the aid of local rabbis translated the Old Testament into Latin from the original Hebrew for the Vulgate, the standard Latin translation of the Bible used by the Roman Catholic Church. Bethlehem flourished until Crusader times, but the following centuries witnessed a great reduction in population, reversed only after the 1948 war with the arrival of thousands of Palestinian refugees.



Anak-anak berbagai bangsa di dunia merayakan kelahiran Yesus dengan menyaksikan operet Natal

Since 1995, Bethlehem has been under the control of the Palestinian National Authority, which has initiated a program of economic recovery and tourism. Despite the huge number of pilgrims and chaotic urban growth, Bethlehem still retains an authentic atmosphere, especially in the central area around Manger Square and in the souk just to the west. The souvenir shops are filled with kitsch religious objects but also carved olive-wood crib scenes that local craftsmen have produced for centuries. No visitor should miss the ancient Church of the Nativity on Manger Square, and the town's other main sights also deserve a visit.



Prosesi perayaan kelahiran Isa Almasih di Basilica of the Nativity - tempat kelahiran Yesus (Lukas 2:1-17)


Bethlehem is where God's only begotten Son Jesus was born to a lowly virgin named Mary (Mary was there with Joseph, to whom she was betrothed, in response to a decree that a census be taken of the entire Roman world by the emperor Caesar Augustus). Due to large crowds, however, there was no room for them in the inn so God's one and only Son Jesus was born in a stable. It was here that angels appeared to shepherds in the fields proclaiming the birth of Jesus.



Di dalam Gereja Nativity



Orthodox procession in the Nativity Church



The Greek Orthodox Patriarch presides over a service



Crowds in the Nativity Church for midnight mass


Ada 48 lentera yang menerangi jalan menuju tempat dimana Yesus dilahirkan (ditandai sebuah 'bintang perak dengan tulisan Latin'), akan semakin banyak terlihat lentera sehingga pada ceiling tampak menghitam karena asap dari lentera-lentera tadi.

Di Bethlehem ada 3 perayaan kelahiran Yesus: Roman Catholic pada tanggal 25 Desember, Greek-Orthodox pada tanggal 6 Januari, dan Armenian pada tanggal 18 Januari.





Exterior and entrance of the Milk Grotto


The Milk Grotto (officially Magharet Sitti Mariam, "Grotto of the Lady Mary") is a serene grotto only a few minutes' walk from Manger Square in Bethlehem.

Stairs into the Milk Grotto

This grotto, with a Franciscan chapel built above it, is considered sacred because tradition has it that the Holy Family took refuge here during the Slaughter of the Innocents, before their flight into Egypt. Tradition has it that while Mary was nursing Jesus here, a drop of milk fell to the ground, turning it white.


The irregularly shaped grotto is hollowed out of the soft white rock. A church was built here by the 5th century, and mosaic fragments on the terrace of the grotto, with geometrical motifs and crosses, are thought to belong to this time.


Both Christians and Muslims believe scrapings from the stones in the grotto boost the quantity of a mother's milk and enhance fertility. Mothers usually mix it in their drinking water; would-be mothers place the rock under their mattress.




Kota Bethlehem dengan tembok pengaman yang didirikan tentara Israel






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