Bethlehem, an important city for Christianity, is a city located in the area under control by the Palestinian Authority, about 10 km south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 25,000 mostly dedicated to the Tourism Industry.
Ancient view of the town of Bethlehem
Dating to the 1400s BCE
The earliest known mention of the city was in the Amarna correspondence of 1350–1330 BCE during its habitation by the Canaanites.
The Hebrew Bible identifies it as the city from where David was from and where he was crowned the King of Israel.
Then the Gospels of Matthew and Luke identify Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus. Emperor Hadrian destroyed it after the Bar Kokhba revolt and was rebuilt with the help of Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. They commissioned the building of the Great Church of Nativity in 327 CE on the site of the place of Jesus’ birth.
View of Bethlehem as it looks today
No longer the “little town” of Christmas Carols
Today it is a city with a Muslim majority, but is home to a large Christian community. As mentioned above tourism is very important here and the city is visited by flocks of tourists that in coordination with the authorities, come on Holy Land Tours from Israel itself to visit this important town.
The Nativity Church on Christmas Day
Church of Nativity
The Nativity Church in Bethlehem is a must stop on any Christian Pilgrimage Holy Land tour to Israel. Technically it is located on Palestinian Authority Territory, about fifteen minutes from Jerusalem. The tourists are brought to a check point from where they are assisted by Palestinians tour guides on their visit of the church. At the end of the visit they are brought back to the same point for the return to Jerusalem.
The Bazaar during the Christmas Season
Being the most important time of the year for pilgrimages, Bethlehem dresses itself for Christmas, with beautiful decorations. The peak day is December 24th when Christians come to celebrate Midnight Mass at the Church of Nativity, as they have done for close to 2,000 years.
There are several hotels and may handicraft workshops in town that cater to these pilgrims.
Christian Armenian Church Service at the Nativity Church
Almost every Christian denomination, such as Lutheran, Syriac, Catholic and Orthodox, is present here and the city positively hums with activity, its winding streets full with tourists scrambling around trying to keep up with their local guides.
There is a lot to see in this town such as the lively Old City, the Bazaar and the epic Mar Saba Monastery.
Many tourists come here to find street art and souvenirs to take back home.
images for bethlehem
all courtesy of wikimedia commons
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