b'Bethlehem (continued from page 71)the frantic disorder of the people, eager to touch the sacredsince its construction. Two bell towers were removed during spot and tripping over each other, coupled with priests rushingthe Crusader period, and there have been several additions. people in and out, takes away from the holy atmosphere. Today it covers approximately 12,000 square meters (130,000 The cave or grotto beneath the Church of the Nativity issquarefeet),comprisingthreedifferentmonasteries:one the oldest site continuously used as a place of worship inGreek Orthodox, one Armenian Apostolic, and one Roman Christianity, and the basilica is the oldest major church in theCatholic (Armenian Apostolic is the oldest Christian religion, Holy Land. The cathedral has basically remained unchangedformally established in 101 CE).Thevisitwasextremelyinteresting,andonedoesget into the Christmas spirit when visiting. Most of the western marketing traditions, associated with Christmas, proved not to be realistic, but the stopover was worth doing. Maybe this Christmas, instead of hearing me sing Away in a Manger, I may instead insert the word cave.Jonathan van Bilsen is an award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.comTRAVEL TIP: When visiting the historical city of Petra in Jordan, a one day pass (valued at $100) will include entrance to the brand new Petra Museum, a site well worth the visit.Some sites are familiar.Many people gather at the alleged site of the birth of Christ.(wherever you are)MCTICO #4577532158 Casimir Street, Port Perry905-985-2268Jean, Virginia and Colleen along with Santa. virginia.frew@marlintravel.ca72 FOCUS - DECEMBER 2019'