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 is a perfect base for sightseeing.
Everything is within walking distance from Manger Square; The Church of the Nativity, souq (marketplace), and bus station.
Though 90% of the population is Muslim in West Bank, 35% of inhabitants in Bethlehem and 70% inhabitants in Beit Jala (next to Bethlehem) are Christian.
Among Christian communities, there are Catholic, Greek Orthodox or Armenian Apostolic Churches.
During the Christmas season, Bethlehem is decorated with lights, people enjoy street concerts and parades. Many tourists come also during Easter.
The town with white houses under the blue sky is so beautiful.
The north side of the town (direction to 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 for.
History of Bethlehem
c. 14th century BC
In Amarna letters, an Egyptian archive of Cuneiform script, mentions “Bit-Lahmi fell to King of Jerusalem”.
c. 50 BC
Bethlehem already became a town in the period of Herod the Great, and also was considered as a holy place by Jesus’s episodes.
Constantine the Great of 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 Grate constructed The Church of the Nativity according to an advice of his mother Helena.
the end of the 11th century
In 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.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the dominator UK who commended Zionism deprived the citizenship of the Palestinians, and also expelled the mayors or leaders of demonstration.
There are about 30,000 inhabitants in the city, about 180,000 including suburbs in Bethlehem.
Despite the Oslo I Accord in 1993 which called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces, the land around Bethlehem has been confiscated by Israel, and the settlement is still expanding.
In these settlements, hotels are planned to construct, which means they try to make Bethlehem an “Israeli sightseeing spot”.
- Bethlehem Tourist Information Center
- Peace Center, Manger Sq.
- Mon-Thu, Sat 8:00-15:00