Looking Back in Time
Years and years ago when the whole world was drowning in anarchy and darkness, a messenger was sent to the earth to enlighten mankind. According to the Gospel of Luke Chapter 2 Verse 8, the place where an angel of God announced the upcoming birth of that savior to the local shepherds, is popularly known as “Beit Sahour”. The name “Beit Sahour” consists of two Arabic words- “Beit” (house), “Sahour” (night watch) and together they mean “the house of vigilance”. Just before the birth of Christ, the local shepherds were highly dependent on this area because it was a safe place for their sheep. A guardian angel always looked after this shepherd’s field and provided the flock food. Symbolically, Beit Sahour was the site where the arrival of the “Good Shepherd” (synonymous to King) aka Jesus, was announced to save his “sheep” aka the entire mankind. The terminology suggests small but evokes great things.
This place is located approximately three kilometers east from the center of holy city Bethlehem in the West Bank in Palestine. At present, it is under the administration of the Palestinian National Authority.
What to See There?
The three most popular sites to visit at Shepherd’s Field are- the Modern Church, the Cave of the Shepherds and the Byzantine Church. The first church was established in 313 AD by St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine the Great, on top of the cave where Jesus was born, which is commonly known as the shepherd’s cave. In the fields too they built a church as the commemoration of the Biblical event. In 614, the Persians destroyed most of the Christian churches including the church of Shepherd’s field and Byzantine Church. The ruins of those churches still carry the memory of that glorious time.
How is it like Now?
At present the field just a dusty terracotta barren land with few dark caves. However, the main tourist attraction has been shifted to the Church of the Angels. In 1954, the Franciscan fathers built a tent-shaped chapel, named the Church of the Angels which was designed by Antonio Barluzzi. Inside the church, there are three paintings that represent the most important biblical events. The first painting to the left signifies the incident when the angels of God appeared to the shepherds’, the second one is the picture of baby Jesus wrapped in manger and the third one stands for the happy shepherds. Inside the church, there are engraved sculptures of angels and a Latin quote “et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis” which means “and peace on earth to the men of good will.”
About 400 meters north of the Orthodox site, there is a Catholic site named, Siyar el-Ghanam (Place for Keeping Sheep).
Traveling to Beit Sahour is like traveling to the past. This place should definitely be in the bucket list of any history lover.