Bethlehem is a picturesque place surrounded by rolling hills with vineyards, olive trees and small hamlets. It is located just five miles from Jerusalem and has a long history beginning from circa 12th century BC when nomadic tribes from nearby arid areas came here to settle. They built a temple to their God Lahama on the same site what is known as mount of the Nativity. They called their settlement Beit Lahama. We now call it Bethlehem.
Bethlehem hasn’t lost much of its earlier ambience and, in fact, with the efflux of time has added more charms with Arab markets and lively bazaars. What, however, sticks out like a sore thumb are the presence of armed forces to enforce peace in this troubled city where the Apostle of Peace was born.
Colorful lights greet visitors as they enter Bethlehem from Jerusalem. A wall separates Bethlehem that comes under Palestinian Authority from the Jewish Jerusalem and tourists have to pass through a checkpoint with barbed wire and watchtowers.
The Palestinian city of Bethlehem wears a festive look during the Christmas. The old Manger Square vibrates with festivities and the Church of Nativity takes the center stage. Many Church leaders and dignitaries from far and wide participate every year in these celebrations. The holy trip begins at the Abu Tor railway station and then enters Bethlehem along the Hebron Road.
Places of worship
The Church of Nativity is one of the most important holy places in the Christian world. Being the birthplace of King David, Bethlehem is also a holy place for the Jews. The advent of Islam in the 7th century didn’t adversely affect, at least until the last century, Bethlehem’ s traditional tolerance for other religions. The Prophet Mohammad once came here to pray.
There are many churches in Bethlehem, and also several mosques. The famous Mosque of Umar, close to the Church of Nativity, has been in existence since the mid 19th century. The world ‘Arab’ doesn’t necessarily mean Muslim. In fact most followers of Lutheran church are Arabs.
The world ‘Arab’ doesn’t necessarily mean Muslim. In fact most followers of Lutheran church are Arabs.
Modern Bethlehem is a bustling city with more tourists than pilgrims. There are probably more restaurants and bars here than places of worship.
The holy city is now a major tourist attraction with usual commercial trappings. Many tourists now find it more interesting to roam the narrow streets off the city squares away from the usual pilgrim sites. The exhilarating mixes of ancient and modern, combination of Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions make Bethlehem an unusually different city.
A wide range of consumer and attractive goods are produced here. Its textiles and mother-of-pearl jewelry are popular with tourists. It is also famous for carvings in olivewood and beautiful embroidery.
Getting a good hotel at a reasonable cost in downtown Bethlehem isn’t difficult except in Christmas time. Consult websites and then decide.
Restaurants and bar
Modern Bethlehem now is a bustling city with more tourists than pilgrims. There are more restaurants and bars here than places of worship. The city offers wide options of cuisine ranging from Palestinian to European and Chinese.
Bethlehem beckons all to come here and celebrate Christmas.