Day 15: Chagall windows at Hadassah Hospital, then to Bethlehem
Although not on the original itinerary, Ibrahim arranged for us to tour the famous Chagall windows. This was a fabulous opportunity as we would not have seen them otherwise. Hadassah Hospital, the most prominent and renowned medical facility in Israel, treats everyone who walks through their doors, from Prime Ministers and Kings to the poorest of the poor. If you are an Israeli citizen, you have excellent health service for less than $100/ month. If not, you pay what you can, sometimes nothing.
After enjoying some beautiful sculpture in the hall, our guide gave us some history of Hadassah, founded by Henrietta Szold in 1912. After a trip to Jerusalem, she saw a crying need for nurses to help the poor and especially children. Little by little, the Hadassah movement sent nurses,and more money. Her organization "A drop of milk" is still very active around the world today. And, of course they eventually built not one but two huge hospitals in Jerusalem , one on the east of the city and this one, in Ein Karem in the west.
Then to the windows. Chagall was famously asked to make a set of windows for the synagogue in the hospital. His response: "what took you so long to ask"!
The twelve windows each represent a son of Jacob, basis for the twelve tribes of Israel. Chagall used Jacob’s blessings for each of his sons as the basis for his design. He only signed one.
In the 1967 war, two of the windows were damaged. Chagall was asked if he would repair them. He left a little piece of clear glass towards the bottom to commentate the destruction.
Onto another additional site to our itinerary: two churches in Bethlehem, another very holy site for Christianity as it is the birthplace of Jesus. Located in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank, it has unfortunately evolved into a very touristy town, lots of pushy street hawkers to push away, and small shops selling religious knickknacks.
To get there we have to pass from the"C" zone of Jerusalem (Israeli-controlled) to the "A" zone (Palestinian controlled). We were told to bring passports to get back into Israel, but it turned out they were not needed on this day.
The first stop here was the Church of the Shepherd’s Field where it is believed that the angel Gabriel appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus ("Hark the Herald Angels Sing"). (According to Ibrahim, shepherds were the Twitterers of the day in terms of spreading news).
The site is also of interest in Judaism as Boaz, of second husband of Ruth fame also had his home and big field here.
There were also caves underneath, usually not open, that had set ups of the birth and shepherds.
We made a stop at a touristy gift shop. It costs $100 for a bus to park at the Church of the Nativity. But… you can park for free if you bring your tour group into this shop🙃🙃. The bathrooms were nice…
Next stop was the Church of the Nativity, built in 324 AD and is the only church that was never destroyed.
We entered through the "door of humility" to see a beautiful church with throngs of people inside.
Most were waiting in line (for more than two hours we were told) to see the small "cave" where Jesus was born. It was also apparent that, for a small fee, you could pay the church workers and bypass the line. Ah! the tourist business!!
Free time this afternoon found us back in Jerusalem shopping and perusing the area not far from our hotel. It is in a great location!
Dinner was at a " western" restaurant, the first one in awhile where the food was wonderful and high quality.