Known as the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem always receives Christian pilgrims from all over the world. It’s a holy place being protected by one of the oldest Christian communities.
Because Bethlehem is just 8km from Jerusalem and has a good transportation network, it’s a perfect base for sightseeing.
Everything is within walking distance from Manger Square; The Church of the Nativity, the souq (marketplace), and the bus station.
Though 90% of the population is Muslim in West Bank, 35% of inhabitants in Bethlehem and 70% of inhabitants in Beit Jala (next to Bethlehem) are Christian.
There are Catholic, Greek Orthodox, or Armenian Apostolic Churches among Christian communities.
During the Christmas season, Bethlehem is decorated with lights, and people enjoy street concerts and parades. Many tourists come during Easter too.
The town with white houses under the blue sky is so beautiful.
On the north side of the town (direction of Jerusalem), the apartheid wall (separation barrier) rises. Paintings by foreign activists are also a must-see.
There are several paintings by Banksy, it’s also interesting to look around.
History of Bethlehem
c.14th century BC
In Amarna letters, an Egyptian archive of Cuneiform script, mentions “Bit-Lahmi fell to King of Jerusalem”.
Bethlehem already became a town in the period of Herod the Great, and also was considered a holy place by Jesus’s episodes.
Constantine the Great, a Roman Emperor proclaimed the Edict of Milan which declared religious tolerance.
Bethlehem then became much more popular for Christian pilgrims. Many churches and monasteries were constructed around there.
Constantine the Great constructed The Church of the Nativity according to the advice of Helena, his mother.
the end of the 11th century
In the middle ages, Bethlehem was controlled by Catholic countries because of the influence of the Crusades. However, the town had been developing as a town for pilgrims.
mid 19th century to 20th century
The colonization waves came to Bethlehem too.
At the turn of the 20th century, Palestinians had their civil rights taken away due to rule by the British, who encouraged Zionism. Also, the mayor and the leaders of the demonstrations were deported from the country.
There are about 30,000 inhabitants in the city, about 180,000 including suburbs in Bethlehem.
Despite the 1993 to reduce the size of the settlements, the land around Bethlehem was confiscated by Israel, and the settlements continue to expand further.
There are plans to build hotels and other facilities in these settlements, and there is a movement to make Bethlehem an Israeli tourist destination.
Bethlehem Tourist Information Center
- Peace Center, Manger Sq.
- Mon-Thu, Sat 8:00-15:00