Today is our official first day as tourists in this country, so we woke up around 7:00am, got ready and headed to the Damascus Gate, which is 25 minutes walking from our apartment. Once in there it was really easy to find the bus station, just in front of it, but we went first to buy some cookies for breakfast in the mini market next to the station.
Once in the station we turned left and saw the first bus, number 24 or 234, that takes us to the checkpoint of Palestine for 4 ILS (not Bethlehem).
We passed the control without problems, we only walked trough the gates and they didn´t even ask for our passports, while the Palestinians were doing a different queue.
As we read, we found a few taxis out of the control offering rides to Bethlehem, Hebron, etc. A group of taxi drivers approached us while we explained that we wanted to visit Hebron first and then Bethlehem. Prices started with 400 ILS which ended up in 250 ILS after some bargain (62€).
After 30 minutes in the car, our first stop was Hebron to visit the Cave of Patriarchs.
It was a little confused because there were soldiers everywhere and some of them first told us that we can´t get inside with our cameras, but that was in the jewish side and because it was Shabbat, so we enter through the muslim side. Anyway, we removed our shoes, cover our head and went inside this holiest place for the jewish and muslims, where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives Sarah, Rebecca and Leah were buried. The only one who is missing is Rachel, who was buried near Bethlehem where she died during childbirth.
Walked a little bit around the desolated Hebron.
After 1 hour walking, we went back to our taxi, stopped first at the wall that separates Palestine from Israel, to see the different graffiti, including the famous Banksy´s graffiti and then head to Bethlehem.
Once in Bethlehem we went to the Church of the Nativity, entering trough the Gate of Humility and visit Jesu´s birthplace. This church is originally from 339 and was the first World Heritage Site listed under Palestine By the UNESCO.
Our next visit was the Church of St. Catherine where they perform the famous midnight mass every year and walked then to the Chapel of the Milk Grotto, that traditions says is the place where the Holy Family found refuge and Virgin Mary spilt a drop of milk while breast-feeding baby Jesus, and the rocks of the cave turned white.
I have to say Palestinians are extremely nice and also very good-looking. We also had one of our best meals of the trip in a restaurant called Afteem, in a little street very close to Manger Square. We paid approximately 80 ILS (20€) for 2 falafel sandwich, 2 lemonades and 1 Motabal (eggplant, Tahina, Garlic, lemon and olive oil).
We walked a lot through the zocco to then find our bus (231) to Jerusalem. It is not in a station, just on the street, I think we were lucky to find it because it was parked, just waiting for the passengers, but my recommendation is to continue asking the locals and they will kindly indicate your way to it.
It costed 4 ILS (1€) and takes you directly from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. We didn´t take this bus in the morning because we wanted to go to the checkpoint as the Palestinians do. With the 231 bus tourists don´t get out of the bus in the control, soldiers go inside the bus and check your passport, together with the blue card they give you at the airport control.
30 minutes later we were in Jerusalem, in front of Damascus Gate (up north). It was 17:30 and already dark, but anyway we went to the Old City and walked to the Western Wall, very impressive to see lots of people praying and placing notes in the wall.
After having an exquisite mango and pomegranate juice and a small pizza (23 ILS for 2 pizzas, 6€) we walked to our airbnb passing through the Jaffa Gate.
I am not very religious, and there is no one more atheist than my friend that traveled with me, but anyway it was a great sensation to visit all these historic places.
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