There are many places that hold special meaning this time of year, and Bethlehem is certainly one of them.
The Holy Land is subject to all sorts of hustle and bustle during the Christmas season, as Victor Vere knows. The local lawyer has been to the Middle East city three times in the last decade, visiting around this time of year.
“I believe I was very privileged to be able to experience this,” he said.
On each trip, Vere brought along groups of other Sudburians with “an interest in the roots of Christianity.”
“If you believe Jesus was born in Bethlehem and was the son of God, you want to go there,” he said. “People from all over the world, no matter what branch of Christianity they believe in, come to this sacred holy spot because they believe ... this is where he was born.”
One of the most revered sites in the ancient city is the Church of Nativity, where “a massive silver star” embedded in the ground marks the spot believers hold Jesus was born.
“This spot is believed to be the spot Christ was born,” Vere said.
There are a number of other landmarks he visited on his multiple trips there, such as the Jordan River and Nazareth. While the actual locations may be a bit off, it’s what they represent that matters.
“What really counts is not the geographic spot, but the focus of faith for all these people,” Vere said.
While ripe with biblical history, Vere said The Holy Land is a fascinating place to visit from a political perspective.
“Bethlehem is not under Jewish control anymore,” Vere said. “It’s under Palestinian control. In order for us to get to Bethlehem, we had to go through Palestinian security.”
The Jewish bus driver and tour guide even had to leave the bus headed for Bethlehem.
“It was quite an interesting thing,” Vere said.
Another element of the experience that stood out to the Sudburian was the heavy sense of history.
“It was like a time warp,” he said. “It was like going back through the years.”
On one side of the street are luxury hotels, on the other are camels being led by Bedouins.
“It’s another world,” he said.