Tag Archives: Church of the Nativity

an email “toward” President Obama

14 Mar

Obama Bethlehem 1

Hearing that President Obama is scheduled to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem next week, I sent him an email.

Mr. President –

While you are in Bethlehem, please keep your ears open to hear anything about the Cremisan Valley in the Beit Jala area of Bethlehem. There is a “win-win” opportunity in the Cremisan Valley for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Adding in how it would be a “win” situation for you and for the United States, there is in the Cremisan Valley a “win-win-win” opportunity. My prayers will be for your safety and your success, especially during your visit to Bethlehem (and Beit Jala). You are a brave man, in more ways than one, for committing yourself to visit Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.

Father Rob Waller, Pastor, St. Andrew Catholic Church, Milford, Ohio.

I don’t have his personal email address, of course. So, I guess I sent it “toward” him, through the White House website, realistically assuming that it might not ever “arrive” to him. But who knows? I did mark it “important.” That should get the attention of his staff, don’t you think, and make them want to rush it right to his desk in the Oval Office or take it upstairs to him and interrupt his breakfast? I added my telephone number, too, just in case he wants to call. Drat! I gave them the one at the office. I should have given them my cell phone number.

“Stars and Bucks” in Bethlehem

1 Jul

Mark (the photographer) and I (the priest) decided to walk from the Church of the Nativity to our Sancta Maria Hotel. We left the flow of the pilgrims, as they headed toward the bus for the ride home. I told Mark that I wanted to stop at Stars and Bucks. Always anxious to get a shot that other eyes might not see, he eagerly tagged along.  

Our first stop along the way was for twelve pictures (he couldn’t take just one) of a man making falafel at his street-side open restaurant. Amazing how a vat of hot grease and balls of seasoned, crushed garbanzo beans becoming falafel brings joy to a photographer.

Shortly after we rounded the corner Mark shouted out, “Oh no, it is Stars and Bucks.” He saw the sign hanging over the café down the street a bit. He thought I was going to Starbucks, and was teasing him with the name. Would I tease about such a serious matter? 

The shop is on the main road in Bethlehem that leads right to Manger Square and the Nativity Church, the site of the birth of Jesus.

Most tourists and pilgrims zip right past the café in a taxi, or walk up the inclined hill on the opposite side of the street because of the location of the garage where all the giant tour busses have to park. But it was the goal of the walk Mark and I were taking … Stars and Bucks.

As I walked into the café and saw that they had coffee mugs for sale, I gave out my own acclamation in the little town of Bethlehem, “Yes!” I had joy like the shepherds and the angels on Christmas eve in the fields of sheep and shepherds. Well, that may be a bit overdone.

My buddy Paul has a collection of Starbucks mugs (see yesterday’s post), but he does not have, and not many people in the whole world have a coffee mug from Stars and Bucks in Bethlehem, Palestine.

Mark bought two mugs, one for his daughter and her husband. I bought one for Paul, and one for myself. Mark was enjoying the moment so much he agreed to get into a picture, and gave his camera to one of the keepers of the café, who seemed a bit puzzled by the performance being played out in his sleepy shop.

My regrets are that I didn’t sit down for coffee and conversation with the locals, and that I didn’t buy a whole case of the mugs. I could have left a lot of clothes behind to have room for them in my return suitcase. I have something to add to my itinerary the next time.

Photos 2, 3 by Mark Bowen/HOPE. Photos 4, 5, 6 by Waseim/Beit Jala. Photos 1, 8 by Father Rob/Milford. Phot0 7 by Stars and Bucks Café Keeper/Bethlehem, using camera of Mark Bowen/HOPE. Phew! Everybody gets due credit.

See how they shove one another

29 Dec

There was a “fight” between the Greek Orthodox and the Armenians in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on December 28. Some 50-60 priests and monks were swinging broomsticks at each other, until Palestinian police came in to break it up.

The fight started while they were cleaning the church. It often happens between the three religious denominations that have rights and services within the church. There is a principle that asserts that “if you clean it, it must be yours.” The Greeks and the Armenians have certain sections of the church that are under their authority. Apparently, someone was sweeping a spot that belonged to the other, or at least so it must have been charged. 

Fortunately, from the Catholic point of view, the Franciscans were not involved in this one.

Father James Martin, S.J. cleverly commented, “See how they shove one another.”