The maze of corridors of the old city is comforting as it envelops you in a shocking onrush of exoticism that would not have felt entirely different to another wanderer, in another age. The chaotic market winds itself through narrow stone streets between recessed stone archways gather close I have been to many suqes and many old cities, and there is always something surprising that such places still exist, having not yet been wholly swallowed by the same onrush of modernity that has, like a great leviathan, devoured history in an iconoclastic whitewash of glass, steel, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The feeling is intensified in Bethlehem, as it is likewise in the Old City of Jerusalem, where there is a continuity with the past that is equally absent in the West and the Far East. Perhaps it is due to the fact that, despite the throngs of tourists, this is a city that is still alive, its people not yet divested of authenticity by the gold of the modern pilgrims of capitalism.
The same family home where I sleep, its rooms now coursing with harsh florescence, once housed crusaders and Sarcsians. I find much in common with the daughter of the motherly innkeeper, and we share common themes of travel, loss, generosity; a loss of a brother mirrors a loss of a mother, and I find the veil of otherness shifting away once again. Our conversations also however brings to mind a difference in our perceptions. A devout Christian, though she tries to restrain herself, she finds in my sympathetic ear an outlet for her faith. It is difficult to tell if we talk past each other due to the limits of our shared language, or due more to experience. For her god is distinct and external, and eternity must wait until death. Religion is not a delicate topic here, footsteps away from the birthplace of a god, and unconventional spirituality blossoms more here, a spring from which some new faith will again come, and again sweep out over the secular void.