On my trip to Israel, the two most mesmerizing places were where Jesus Christ was born and crucified. The Church of Nativity is known as the birth place of Jesus Christ and Church of The Holy Sepulchre is believed to be the place where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. Although an entire book too wouldn’t do justice to these two places, here’s my experience when I visited them.
The Church of Nativity, Bethlehem
Church Entrance: As can be seen in the picture, the entrance to the Church was built three times. First in the 6th century (the big rectangular shaped entrance), second time in the 12th century (the arch) and then in the 16th century (the smallest door). Every time the height of the door was reduced in order to protect the church from attackers who used to enter in on their horses. The final door is made at such a height that we need to bow down to enter the church, hence symbolizing respect for it.
Grotto of The Nativity: It is the centerpiece of the Church, a cave where Jesus Christ is said to have been born.
Pilgrims and visitors from all over the world waited in queue for three hours to enter the cave and rest their heads on the Grotto for less than five seconds. The belief they have is unimaginable.
Chandeliers: The Church ceilings were covered with huge mesmerizing chandeliers. As told to us by our guide, the chandeliers were centuries old and were made of silver.
The Scene of Jesus Christ’s Birth: A beautiful model of Jesus Christ’s birth scene was very soothing to witness. The scene exhibits figures representing infant Jesus, his mother, Mary, and her husband, Joseph. Other shepherd, angels and animals are displayed too.
Church of The Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
Stone of Anointing: Just inside the entrance of the church, is the Stone of Anointing. According to tradition, this is believed to be the spot where Jesus’s body was prepared for burial. People rest their heads on it and offer their prayers. Believers also rub their handkerchiefs/scarfs on the stone and seek blessings. The stone is decorated with 8 beautiful lanterns.
Jesus Christ’s Crucifixion: It is believed that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified on Golgotha, a skull shaped hill in Jerusalem. When Jesus was crucified, it lead to an earthquake which caused a crack in Golgotha.
Chapel of Adam: Right beneath where Jesus was crucified, is the Chapel of Adam. It is believed that when Golgotha cracked open due to the earthquake, a few blood drops from Jesus’s wounds seeped into the ground and fell on Adam’s Skull (the first man on earth) who was buried underneath. This lead to Adam coming back to life as all his sins were washed away by Jesus’s blood drops. A small part of the Golgotha hill can be seen in Adam’s Chapel.
Also, we saw people writing their wishes and prayers on a piece of paper and leaving them at Adam’s Chapel believing they would come true. Amusingly, my prayers did come true later.
Both the churches have an aura of faith, spirituality and positivity. So, if you ever plan to visit Israel, do visit these sacred churches.
A quick tip: When visiting holy places in Jerusalem or Bethlehem, ensure your outfit covers your arms and legs as it is considered disrespectful to enter the church bare arms/legs. Or you can carry a scarf along, like I did, to cover your arms.