Our final destination was the church where Lia's father serves, the Monastery of the Shepherds' Field. Again, although it is technically and historically a monastery, for all intents and purposes it is now a parish church. And again, it was closed, but Lia's father managed to find someone to open it for us.
In building the new church (which you can see in the photo above), remnants of three churches from the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries were found (you get the impression that that was a busy time!)
Here is the cave where the shepherds were keeping watch when they heard the angelic cry "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Lk 2:14 KJV). As a side note, this probably isn't an accurate translate of the Greek. The Greek probably means something more like "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace toward men of good will" which perhaps means something like "toward men with whom He is pleased."
The shepherds' cave and shelter later served as their tomb. Finally, as you can see in the photo above, the cave was converted into a church by St. Helena around 330 AD. The pilgrim Egeria testifies to this church in her letter from 380.
Skulls of monks from this monastery who were martyred by the Persian invaders in 614 AD.
The modern day church, built just recently and consecrated by the current patriarch, Theophilos III.
Finally, Lia took us to a nearby restaurant called The Shepherds' Tent, which is designed to look like a massive Bedouin tent. Of course, as is almost requisite it seems, we got into a big debate with the taxi driver on how much we should pay, despite having an agreement. He wanted to charge us four times what we originally agreed to. Anyway, after a lot of really unpleasant bickering, we settled the matter and went into eat something. In the photo above, you can see the sampler of traditional salads that we ordered.
After a great meal, Lia put us on the right bus back to Jerusalem. The bus stopped at the border into Israel, where we had to get off and show our passports to some bored, teenage Israeli guards with machine guns. For some reason, I was flagged and had to explain what I was doing in Israel, and then we were back on the bus and headed into Jerusalem.
To see all the photos from our fifth and last day, click here.
The next day, our flight was at 7:00 AM. Israeli security is really tight and requires you to be at Tel Aviv airport three hours before takeoff. Therefore, we had to catch a shuttle outside the walls of the Old City at 3:15 AM. We missed our narrow connection in Athens by one minute, and had to do a lot of bickering before getting on the next flight to Thessaloniki. Thank God, we arrived home safely, having had a wonderful trip. Our only regret was not having more time to make a trip up north to see Galilee, Mt. Tabor, Nazareth, and Capernaum, but I hope to do that on my next trip!