Bethlehem: the Church of the Nativity, Birthplace of Jesus
Certainly one of the holiest places in the Holy Land, the Church of the Nativity is credited as the birthplace of Jesus and is the oldest complete church in the world. The current church is built over the remains over an earlier church built by Saint Helena.
It is something of a miracle that the church survived at all, since the Persians ransacked this area and destroyed all the Christian churches except for this one.
What led them to spare it was the fact that the Magi, who followed the star to Bethlehem, were in fact Persians. When, some 600 years later, the Persians arrived in conquest they were surprised to find a mosaic in Persian over the door of the church.
And is was out of respect for their ancestors, that they decided to spare the church.
The Church is occupied by three religions: Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox.
Unfortunately they provide a very poor example of Christian behavior since each one jealously guards their slice of territory and even have lines drawn on the floor to differentiate their area of control. Sadly, fights between them sometimes break out and the pictures travel swiftly throughout the world, leaving a rather sorry impression of inter-faith harmony.
Despite all this, you don’t want to miss a visit here. The church is located on Manger Square and you enter through a small doorway (made so for defensive purposes) where you have to duck your head in order to enter.