Visitors to Bethlehem today are usually part of a large group travelling the short distance from Jerusalem - around six miles away.
They might - just- be aware of the division between the city and the Palestinian enclave around Bethlehem, but they will not be inconvenienced by it as the locals are. They will not be delayed.
The first stop is usually at the Shepherds Fields outside the town. The land is scrub land on the hillsides - bare and unwelcoming for those shepherds and their flocks, the church which has been built there is simple, elegant and the murals on its walls illustrate the experience the shepherds had that December night.
At the Shepherds' Fields. This felt like a place of quiet reflection. Free from hoardes of tourists .
This, I think, was the only place where I felt unsafe. We have walked the length of the Church of the Nativity and are being taken to the Place of the Nativity in the crypt.From the entrance to the top of the steps has taken 45minutes and our guide says it's often longer. This is a quiet day! The pilgrims (largely Eastern European) are keen to get to see the star which has been placed where the baby was born. How sad it was to see them moved on so quickly that there was no opportunity for reflection, for the 'How amazing!' moment - whether this is the spot where the Saviour was born or not, it is the place that is said to mark his birth and a pause to appreciate it would have been appropriate. Hardly a place of stillness!