I talked with both Christian and Muslim Arabs while wandering and reflecting in the church. Bethlehem is a place where people can live side-by-side in mutual respect without the religious tension which is felt in some other Middle-Eastern countries. This peaceful co-existence is further evidenced by the sunset-framed silhouette of a mosque's minaret across from the church.
After meeting the priest of the church, one of my new friends insisted that I had to cross the street and meet his Imam too. : )
After a full day's travel, I spent much of the night conversing, eating, smoking sheesha, and meeting the extended families of my Palestinian friends. Their hospitality was unbeatable - as a guest, I was welcomed warmly and treated to the best they had to offer.
But even in this peaceful suburb, the consequences of conflict and political unrest still loomed. Before leaving town the following morning, my friend insisted that I see where his little brother's final resting place lay - his life cut short by a bullet during a fight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians some years ago.