One major travel achievement I am most proud of, is the chance to visit Bethlehem located in the West Bank, inside Palestine.
Getting to Israel is already a major achievement in itself, but getting farther, past the separation wall between Israel and Palestine is one travel milestone I will never ever forget.
There is so much to see in Palestine and if I had enough time and money, I would have stayed longer.
But since I was on a tight schedule and I was afraid to miss the bus crossing the wall, I spent half a day in Bethlehem and visited the highlights. One of them is the curiously, white Milk Grotto.
The first structure that you will see is the Franciscan chapel built on top of the grotto. The chapel was built in the 5th century.
The real Milk Grotto is located underneath the chapel and there is a steep stairway leading to the hollow cavern.
The Milk Grotto has a very special place in the hearts of pilgrims. This is the site of a former cave where Jesus, Mary and Joseph hid during the Slaughter of Innocent ordered by King Herod, before they traveled to Egypt.
It would be years after when the holy family would be able to return to Israel from Egypt following a message from an angel.
As to why the grotto is white, there is a myth told since the earlier centuries that while nursing the infant Jesus, a drop of milk fell to the ground which turned the place completely white.
Devotion to Mary
While most pilgrims visit the Milk Grotto to pray to Jesus, there are thousands of visitors who visit the site for a completely different reason.
Nowadays, women visitors flock to the grotto to pray for the intercession of the Mary to heal their wounds and the wounds of their loved ones. Thousands of visitors believe that scrapings of the rocks inside the grotto will help their conceive children. They mix the scrapings to their drinking water and sometimes, they place it under their mattresses.
Around the grotto, there are messages left by hundreds of couples who give thanks to Mary presumably after having children following their visit to the grotto.
During my visit, there were several women inside the grotto. I couldn’t be sure whether they were praying for Mary’s intercession but I saw in their faces that they were praying fervently for something.
Touring the grotto is a truly religious experience. You can just imagine the hardships suffered by the holy family during those dark days under King Herod’s rule.
Indeed, the Milk Grotto is a very spiritual place that you just have to visit when you’re in Bethlehem.