Bethlehem

Bethlehem

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Bethlehem is a Palestinian
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 city in the central West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 of the Jordan River, near Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and approximately 8 kilometres (5 mi) south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate
Bethlehem Governorate
The Bethlehem Governorate is one of 16 Governorates of the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the Palestinian Territories. It covers an area of the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Its principal city and district capital is Bethlehem...

 of the Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian National Authority
The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip...

 and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism
Tourism in the Palestinian territories
Tourism in the Palestinian territories refers to tourism in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The tourism industry declined 90% following the Second Intifada in 2000, though it had recovered, with 2.6 million tourists in 2009, 1.7 million from abroad. Palestinian Authority's Tourism minister is...

. The Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 identifies Beit Lehem as the city David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 was from and the location where he was crowned as the king of Israel. The New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 Gospels of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 and Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

 identify Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 of Nazareth
Nazareth
Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel...

. The town is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, though the size of the community has shrunk due to emigration. Bethlehem has gone from being 90 to 30% Christian because the town has lost most of its land to Israeli settlements – land once owned by the town's Christian families.

The city was sacked by the Samaritan
Samaritan
The Samaritans are an ethnoreligious group of the Levant. Religiously, they are the adherents to Samaritanism, an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism...

s in 529 AD, during their revolt, but was rebuilt by the Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 emperor Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

. Bethlehem was conquered by the Arab Caliphate
Rashidun
The Rightly Guided Caliphs or The Righteous Caliphs is a term used in Sunni Islam to refer to the first four Caliphs who established the Rashidun Caliphate. The concept of "Rightly Guided Caliphs" originated with the Abbasid Dynasty...

 of 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb
Umar
`Umar ibn al-Khattāb c. 2 November , was a leading companion and adviser to the Islamic prophet Muhammad who later became the second Muslim Caliph after Muhammad's death....

 in 637, who guaranteed safety for the city's religious shrines. In 1099, Crusaders captured and fortified Bethlehem and replaced its Greek Orthodox
Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox Church is the body of several churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity sharing a common cultural tradition whose liturgy is also traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament...

 clergy with a Latin one. The Latin clergy were expelled after the city was captured by Saladin
Saladin
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , better known in the Western world as Saladin, was an Arabized Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant...

, the sultan
Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

 of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. With the coming of the Mamluks
Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo)
The Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt was the final independent Egyptian state prior to the establishment of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty in 1805. It lasted from the overthrow of the Ayyubid Dynasty until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. The sultanate's ruling caste was composed of Mamluks, Arabised...

 in 1250, the city's walls were demolished, and were subsequently rebuilt during the rule of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

.

The British wrested control of the city from the Ottomans
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and it was to be included in an international zone under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 annexed the city in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It was occupied by Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 in the 1967 Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

. Since 1995, Bethlehem has been governed by the Palestinian National Authority.

Bethlehem has a Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 majority, but is also home to one of the largest Palestinian Christian
Palestinian Christians
Palestinian Christians are Arabic-speaking Christians descended from the people of the geographical area of Palestine. Within Palestine, there are churches and believers from many Christian denominations, including Oriental Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholic , Protestant, and others...

 communities. The Bethlehem agglomeration
Agglomeration
In the study of human settlements, an urban agglomeration is an extended city or town area comprising the built-up area of a central place and any suburbs linked by continuous urban area. In France, INSEE the French Statistical Institute, translate it as "Unité urbaine" which means continuous...

 includes the towns of Beit Jala
Beit Jala
Beit Jala is an Arab Christian town in the Bethlehem Governorate of the West Bank. Beit Jala is located 10 km south of Jerusalem, on the western side of the Hebron road, opposite Bethlehem, at altitude...

 and Beit Sahour
Beit Sahour
Beit Sahour is a Palestinian town east of Bethlehem under the administration of the Palestinian National Authority...

, as well as the refugee camps of Dheisheh
Dheisheh
Dheisheh Refugee Camp is a Palestinian refugee camp located just south of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Dheisheh was established in 1949 on 0.31 square kilometers of land leased from the Jordanian government...

, 'Aida
Aida (camp)
Aida is a Palestinian refugee camp situated 2 kilometers North of Bethlehem and 1 kilometer North of Beit Jala in the central West Bank...

 and Azza
'Azza
Azza, [also spelled Azzeh, Azzah or Alazzeh] or Beit Jibrin is a Palestinian refugee camp in the Bethlehem Governorate located within the city of Bethlehem. It is the smallest refugee camp between the 59 refugee camps in the West Bank and the other Arab countries...

. Bethlehem's chief economic sector
Economy
An economy consists of the economic system of a country or other area; the labor, capital and land resources; and the manufacturing, trade, distribution, and consumption of goods and services of that area...

 is tourism which peaks during the Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 season when Christian pilgrims throng to the Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. The structure is built over the cave that tradition marks as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, and thus it is considered sacred by Christians...

. Bethlehem has over thirty hotels and three hundred handicraft work shops. Rachel's Tomb
Rachel's Tomb
Rachel's Tomb , also known as the Dome of Rachel, , is an ancient structure believed to be the burial place of the biblical matriarch Rachel. It is located on the outskirts of Bethlehem, a Palestinian city just south of Jerusalem, in the West Bank...

, an important Jewish holy site, is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem.

History


The first historical reference to the town appears in the Amarna Letters
Amarna letters
The Amarna letters are an archive of correspondence on clay tablets, mostly diplomatic, between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru during the New Kingdom...

 (c. 1400 BC) when the King of Jerusalem appeals to his overlord, the King of Egypt, for help in retaking "Bit-Lahmi" in the wake of disturbances by the Apiru
Habiru
Habiru or Apiru or ˁpr.w was the name given by various Sumerian, Egyptian, Akkadian, Hittite, Mitanni, and Ugaritic sources to a group of people living as nomadic invaders in areas of the Fertile Crescent from Northeastern Mesopotamia and Iran to the borders of Egypt in Canaan...

. It is thought that the similarity of this name to its modern forms indicates that this was a settlement of Canaanites who shared a Semitic cultural and linguistic heritage with the later arrivals.

Lachmo was the Chaldean god of fertility. Worshipped by the Canaanites as Lachama, some time in the 3rd millennium BC, they erected a temple to worship the god on the hill now known as the Hill of the Nativity. The town accordingly was known as Beit Lachama, meaning "House of Lachama." William F. Albright
William F. Albright
William Foxwell Albright was an American archaeologist, biblical scholar, philologist and expert on ceramics. From the early twentieth century until his death, he was the dean of biblical archaeologists and the universally acknowledged founder of the Biblical archaeology movement...

 notes the pronunciation of the name remained essentially the same for 3,500 years, but has meant different things: "'Temple of the God Lakhmu' in Canaanite, 'House of Bread' in Hebrew and Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

, 'House of Flesh' in Arabic."

Biblical era


Biblical scholars believe Bethlehem, located in the "hill country" of Judah
Kingdom of Judah
The Kingdom of Judah was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel....

, may be the same as the Biblical Ephrath
Ephrath
Ephrath or Ephratah is the name of a Biblical place.The first mention of Ephrath occurs in Genesis, in reference to where Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin and is buried on the road from Bethel...

, which means "fertile", as there is a reference to it in the Book of Micah
Book of Micah
The Book of Micah is one of fifteen prophetic books in the Hebrew bible/Old Testament, and the sixth of the twelve minor prophets. It records the sayings of Mikayahu, meaning "Who is like Yahweh?", an 8th century prophet from the village of Moresheth in Judah...

 as Bethlehem Ephratah. The Bible also calls it Beth-Lehem Judah, and "a city of David". It is first mentioned in the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 and the Bible as the place where the Abrahamic matriarch Rachel
Rachel
Rachel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, is a prophet and the favorite wife of Jacob, one of the three Biblical Patriarchs, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. She was the daughter of Laban and the younger sister of Leah, Jacob's first wife...

 died and was buried "by the wayside" (Gen. 48:7). Rachel's Tomb
Rachel's Tomb
Rachel's Tomb , also known as the Dome of Rachel, , is an ancient structure believed to be the burial place of the biblical matriarch Rachel. It is located on the outskirts of Bethlehem, a Palestinian city just south of Jerusalem, in the West Bank...

, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem. According to the Book of Ruth
Book of Ruth
The Book of Ruth is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible, Tanakh, or Old Testament. In the Jewish canon the Book of Ruth is included in the third division, or the Writings . In the Christian canon the Book of Ruth is placed between Judges and 1 Samuel...

, the valley to the east is where Ruth
Ruth (biblical figure)
Ruth , is the main character in the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible.-Biblical narrative:Ruth was a Moabitess, who married Mahlon, the son of Elimelech and Naomi, but Elimelech and his two sons died...

 of Moab
Moab
Moab is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in Jordan. The land lies alongside much of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The existence of the Kingdom of Moab is attested to by numerous archeological findings, most notably the Mesha Stele, which describes the Moabite victory over...

 gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi
Naomi (Bible)
Naomi is Ruth's mother-in-law in the Old Testament Book of Ruth...

. Biblical tradition holds that Bethlehem is the birthplace of David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

, the second king of Israel, and the place where he was anointed king by Samuel. It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam
Adullam
Adullam is a region of Israel near the Valley of Elah , west of Gush Etzion. The villages of Aderet, Neve Michael/Roglit, and Aviezer are located here. In the 1950s there were plans to set up Adullam as a formal political/economic region, on the model of Lachish, but the plans were not carried out...

.

Roman and Byzantine periods



Between 132–135 the city was occupied by the Romans after its capture during the Bar Kokhba Revolt. Its Jewish residents were expelled by the military order
Military order
A military order is a Christian society of knights that was founded for crusading, i.e. propagating or defending the faith , either in the Holy Land or against Islam or pagans in Europe...

s of Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

. While ruling Bethlehem, the Romans built a shrine to the mythical Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 cult figure
Cult following
A cult following is a group of fans who are highly dedicated to a specific area of pop culture. A film, book, band, or video game, among other things, will be said to have a cult following when it has a small but very passionate fan base...

 Adonis
Adonis
Adonis , in Greek mythology, the god of beauty and desire, is a figure with Northwest Semitic antecedents, where he is a central figure in various mystery religions. The Greek , Adōnis is a variation of the Semitic word Adonai, "lord", which is also one of the names used to refer to God in the Old...

 on the site of the Nativity. A church was erected in 326, when Helena, the mother of the first Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 emperor Constantine
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

, visited Bethlehem.

During the Samaritan
Samaritan
The Samaritans are an ethnoreligious group of the Levant. Religiously, they are the adherents to Samaritanism, an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism...

 revolt of 529, Bethlehem was sacked and its walls and the Church of the Nativity destroyed, but they were soon rebuilt on the orders of the Emperor Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

. In 614, the Persian Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

 invaded Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 and captured Bethlehem. A story recounted in later sources holds that they refrained from destroying the church on seeing the magi
Magi
Magi is a term, used since at least the 4th century BC, to denote a follower of Zoroaster, or rather, a follower of what the Hellenistic world associated Zoroaster with, which...

 depicted in Persian
Iranian art
Persian arts, or Iranian arts is one of the richest art heritages in world history and encompasses many disciplines including architecture, painting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stonemasonry.-The Persian rug:...

 clothing in a mosaic.

Birthplace of Jesus


Two accounts in the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 describe Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 as born in Bethlehem. According to the Gospel of Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

, Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

' parents lived in Nazareth
Nazareth
Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel...

 but traveled to Bethlehem for a census. Was this the census of AD 6
Census of Quirinius
The Census of Quirinius refers to the enrollment of the Roman Provinces of Syria and Iudaea for tax purposes taken in the year 6/7 during the reign of Emperor Augustus , when Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was appointed governor of Syria, after the banishment of Herod Archelaus from the Tetrarchy of...

? or an earlier one before the death of Herod in 4 B.C.? Jesus was born there before the family returned to Nazareth.

The Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 account implies that the family already lived in Bethlehem when Jesus was born, and later moved to Nazareth. Matthew reports that Herod the Great
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

, told that a 'King of the Jews' has been born in Bethlehem, ordered the killing of all the children aged two and under in the town and surrounding areas. Jesus' father Joseph
Saint Joseph
Saint Joseph is a figure in the Gospels, the husband of the Virgin Mary and the earthly father of Jesus Christ ....

 is warned of this in a dream, and the family escapes this fate by fleeing to Egypt and returning only after Herod has died. But being warned in another dream not to return to Judea, Joseph withdraws the family to Galilee
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

, and goes to live in Nazareth.

Early Christians
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

 interpreted a verse in the Book of Micah
Book of Micah
The Book of Micah is one of fifteen prophetic books in the Hebrew bible/Old Testament, and the sixth of the twelve minor prophets. It records the sayings of Mikayahu, meaning "Who is like Yahweh?", an 8th century prophet from the village of Moresheth in Judah...

 as a prophecy of the birth of the Messiah
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

 in Bethlehem. Many modern scholars question whether Jesus was really born in Bethlehem, and suggest that the different Gospel accounts were invented to present the birth of Jesus as fulfillment of prophecy and imply a connection to the lineage of King David. The Gospel of Mark
Gospel of Mark
The Gospel According to Mark , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Mark or simply Mark, is the second book of the New Testament. This canonical account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the three synoptic gospels. It was thought to be an epitome, which accounts for its place as the second...

 and the Gospel of John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

 do not include a nativity narrative or any hint that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and refer to him only as being from Nazareth. In a 2005 article in Archaeology
Archaeology (magazine)
Archaeology is a bimonthly mainstream magazine about archaeology, published by the Archaeological Institute of America. Its focus is both for archaeologists and non-specialists alike. The magazine was launched in 1948, and is published six times a year....

 magazine, archaeologist Aviram Oshri pointed to the absence of evidence of settlement of the area at the time when Jesus was born, and postulates that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Galilee. Opposing him, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor argues for the traditional position.

The existence of early traditions of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem is attested by the Christian apologist
Christian apologetics
Christian apologetics is a field of Christian theology that aims to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defend the faith against objections, and expose the perceived flaws of other world views...

 Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr, also known as just Saint Justin , was an early Christian apologist. Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue survive. He is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church....

, who stated in his Dialogue with Trypho (c. 155–161) that the Holy Family
Holy Family
The Holy Family consists of the Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph.The Feast of the Holy Family is a liturgical celebration in the Roman Catholic Church in honor of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his foster father, Saint Joseph, as a family...

 had taken refuge in a cave outside of the town. Origen of Alexandria
Origen
Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

, writing around the year 247, referred to a cave in the town of Bethlehem which local people believed was the birthplace of Jesus. This cave was possibly one which had previously been a site of the cult of Tammuz.

Islamic rule and the Crusades


In 637, shortly after Jerusalem was captured
Siege of Jerusalem (637)
The Siege of Jerusalem was a part of a military conflict which took place in the year 637 between the Byzantine Empire and the Rashidun Caliphate. It began when the Rashidun army, under the command of Abu Ubaidah, besieged Jerusalem in November 636. After six months, the Patriarch Sophronius...

 by the Muslim armies
Rashidun army
The Rashidun Caliphate Army or Rashidun army was the primary military body of the Rashidun Caliphate's armed forces during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, serving alongside the Rashidun Navy...

, 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb
Umar
`Umar ibn al-Khattāb c. 2 November , was a leading companion and adviser to the Islamic prophet Muhammad who later became the second Muslim Caliph after Muhammad's death....

, the second Caliph
Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

,promised that the Church of the Nativity would be preserved for Christian use. A mosque
Mosque of Omar (Bethlehem)
The Mosque of Omar is the oldest and only mosque in the old city of Bethlehem, located in Manger Square, near the Church of the Nativity.-History:The mosque is named after Omar ibn al-Khattab , the second Rashidun Muslim Caliph...

 dedicated to Umar was built upon the place in the city where he prayed, next to the church. Bethlehem then passed from the control of the Islamic caliphates of the Ummayads in the 8th century, then the Abbasids in the 9th century. Persian
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

 geographer recorded in the mid-9th century that a well preserved and much venerated church existed in the town. In 985, Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi
Al-Muqaddasi
Muhammad ibn Ahmad Shams al-Din Al-Muqaddasi , also transliterated as Al-Maqdisi and el-Mukaddasi, was a medieval Arab geographer, author of Ahsan at-Taqasim fi Ma`rifat il-Aqalim .-Biography:Al-Muqaddasi, "the Hierosolomite" was born in Jerusalem in 946 AD...

 visited Bethlehem, and referred to its church as the "Basilica of Constantine, the equal of which does not exist anywhere in the country-round." In 1009, during the reign of the sixth Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah
Abu ‘Ali Mansur Tāriqu l-Ḥākim, called Al-Hakim bi Amr al-Lāh , was the sixth Fatimid caliph and 16th Ismaili imam .- History :...

, the Church of the Nativity was ordered to be demolished, but was spared by local Muslims, because they had been permitted to worship in the structure's south transept.

In 1099, Bethlehem was captured by the Crusaders
First Crusade
The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

, who fortified it and built a new monastery and cloister on the north side of the Church of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox
Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox Church is the body of several churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity sharing a common cultural tradition whose liturgy is also traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament...

 clergy were removed from their Sees and replaced with Latin clerics. Up until that point the official Christian presence in the region was Greek Orthodox. On Christmas Day 1100, Baldwin I
Baldwin I of Jerusalem
Baldwin I of Jerusalem, formerly Baldwin I of Edessa, born Baldwin of Boulogne , 1058? – 2 April 1118, was one of the leaders of the First Crusade, who became the first Count of Edessa and then the second ruler and first titled King of Jerusalem...

, first king of the Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem
Kingdom of Jerusalem
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a Catholic kingdom established in the Levant in 1099 after the First Crusade. The kingdom lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 when the last remaining possession, Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks, but its history is divided into two distinct periods....

, was crowned in Bethlehem, and that year a Latin episcopate was also established in the town.
In 1187, Saladin
Saladin
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , better known in the Western world as Saladin, was an Arabized Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant...

, the Sultan of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 who led the Muslim Ayyubids
Ayyubid dynasty
The Ayyubid dynasty was a Muslim dynasty of Kurdish origin, founded by Saladin and centered in Egypt. The dynasty ruled much of the Middle East during the 12th and 13th centuries CE. The Ayyubid family, under the brothers Ayyub and Shirkuh, originally served as soldiers for the Zengids until they...

, captured Bethlehem from the Crusaders. The Latin clerics were forced to leave, allowing the Greek Orthodox clergy to return. Saladin agreed to the return of two Latin priests and two deacons in 1192. However, Bethlehem suffered from the loss of the pilgrim trade, as there was a sharp decrease of European pilgrims.

William IV, Count of Nevers
William IV, Count of Nevers
William IV, Count of Nevers, Count of Nevers, Auxerre and Tonnerre .-Family:William was a son of William III, Count of Nevers and Ida of Sponheim, and the older brother of his successor Guy, Count of Nevers. Their paternal grandparents were William II of Nevers and his wife Adelais...

 had promised the Christian bishops of Bethlehem that if Bethlehem should fall under Muslim control, he would welcome them in the small town of Clamecy
Clamecy, Nièvre
Clamecy is a commune in the Nièvre department in central France.Clamecy is the capital of an arrondissement in the department of Nièvre, at the confluence of the Yonne and Beuvron and on the Canal du Nivernais, 46 m. N.N.E...

 in present-day Burgundy, France. As such, The Bishop of Bethlehem duly took up residence in the hospital of Panthenor, Clamecy in 1223. Clamecy remained the continuous 'in partibus infidelium
Titular see
A titular see in various churches is an episcopal see of a former diocese that no longer functions, sometimes called a "dead diocese". The ordinary or hierarch of such a see may be styled a "titular bishop", "titular metropolitan", or "titular archbishop"....

' seat of the Bishopric of Bethlehem for almost 600 years, until the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 in 1789.

Bethlehem—along with Jerusalem, Nazareth
Nazareth
Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel...

 and Sidon
Sidon
Sidon or Saïda is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 km north of Tyre and 40 km south of the capital Beirut. In Genesis, Sidon is the son of Canaan the grandson of Noah...

—was briefly ceded to the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem
Kingdom of Jerusalem
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a Catholic kingdom established in the Levant in 1099 after the First Crusade. The kingdom lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 when the last remaining possession, Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks, but its history is divided into two distinct periods....

 by a treaty between Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 Frederick II
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

 and Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil
Al-Kamil
Al-Kamil was a Kurdish Ayyubid sultan who ruled North Africa. During his tenure as sultan, the Ayyubids defeated two crusades. In a temporary agreement with the Crusaders, he ceded Jerusalem to the Christians.-Biography:He was the son of sultan al-Adil, a brother of Saladin...

 in 1229, in return for a ten-year truce between the Ayyubids and the Crusaders. The treaty expired in 1239 and Bethlehem was recaptured by the Muslims in 1244.

In 1250, with the coming to power of the Mamluk
Mamluk
A Mamluk was a soldier of slave origin, who were predominantly Cumans/Kipchaks The "mamluk phenomenon", as David Ayalon dubbed the creation of the specific warrior...

s under Rukn al-Din Baibars
Baibars
Baibars or Baybars , nicknamed Abu l-Futuh , was a Mamluk Sultan of Egypt. He was one of the commanders of the forces which inflicted a devastating defeat on the Seventh Crusade of King Louis IX of France and he led the vanguard of the Egyptian army at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, which marked...

, tolerance of Christianity declined; the clergies left the city, and in 1263 the town walls were demolished. The Latin clergy returned to Bethlehem the following century, establishing themselves in the monastery adjoining the Basilica of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox were given control of the basilica and shared control of the Milk Grotto with the Latins and the Armenians
Armenian Apostolic Church
The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest National Church, is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, and is one of the most ancient Christian communities. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD, in establishing this church...

.

Ottoman and Egyptian era


From 1517, during the years of Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 control, custody of the Basilica was bitterly disputed between the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. By the end of the 16th century, Bethelem had become one of the largest villages in the District of Jerusalem, and was subdivided into seven quarters. The Basbus family served as the heads of Bethlehem among other leaders during this period.

Bethlehem paid taxes on wheat, barley, and grapes. The Muslims and Christians were organized into separate communities, each having its own leader; five leaders represented the village in the mid-16th century, three of whom were Muslims. Ottoman tax records suggest that the Christian population was slightly more prosperous or grew more grain as opposed to grapes, the former being a more valuable commodity.

From 1831 to 1841, Palestine was under the rule Muhammad Ali Dynasty
Muhammad Ali Dynasty
The Muhammad Ali Dynasty was the ruling dynasty of Egypt and Sudan, from the 19th to the mid-20th Century. It is named after its progenitor, Muhammad Ali Pasha, regarded as the founder of modern Egypt. It was also more formally known as the Alawiyya Dynasty...

 of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. During this period, the town suffered an earthquake as well as the destruction of the Muslim quarter in 1834 by Egyptian troops, apparently as a reprisal for the murder of a favored loyalist of Ibrahim Pasha
Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt
Ibrahim Pasha was the eldest son of Muhammad Ali, the Wāli and unrecognised Khedive of Egypt and Sudan. He served as a general in the Egyptian army that his father established during his reign, taking his first command of Egyptian forces was when he was merely a teenager...

. In 1841, Bethlehem came under Ottoman rule once more and remained so until the end of World War I. Under the Ottomans, Bethlehem's inhabitants faced unemployment, compulsory military service
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 and heavy taxes, resulting in mass emigration particularly to South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

. An American missionary in the 1850s reports a population of under 4,000, 'nearly all of them belong to the Greek Church.' He also comments that 'there is a fatal lack of water' and hence it could never become a large town.

Twentieth century


Bethlehem was administered by the British Mandate from 1920 until 1948. In the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

's 1947 resolution to partition Palestine, Bethlehem was included in the special international enclave of Jerusalem to be administered by the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

.

Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 annexed the city during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Many refugees from areas captured by Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i forces in 1947–48 fled to the Bethlehem area, primarily settling in the what became the official refugee camps of 'Azza (Beit Jibrin)
'Azza
Azza, [also spelled Azzeh, Azzah or Alazzeh] or Beit Jibrin is a Palestinian refugee camp in the Bethlehem Governorate located within the city of Bethlehem. It is the smallest refugee camp between the 59 refugee camps in the West Bank and the other Arab countries...

 and 'Aida
Aida (camp)
Aida is a Palestinian refugee camp situated 2 kilometers North of Bethlehem and 1 kilometer North of Beit Jala in the central West Bank...

 in the north and Dheisheh
Dheisheh
Dheisheh Refugee Camp is a Palestinian refugee camp located just south of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Dheisheh was established in 1949 on 0.31 square kilometers of land leased from the Jordanian government...

 in the south. The influx of refugees significantly transformed Bethlehem's Christian majority into a Muslim one.
Jordan retained control of the city until the Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

 in 1967, when Bethlehem was occupied by Israel, along with the rest of the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

. On December 21, 1995, Israeli troops withdrew from Bethlehem, and three days later the city came under the complete administration and military control of the Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian National Authority
The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip...

 in conformance with the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
The Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, also known as the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, the Interim Agreement, Oslo 2, Oslo II, and Taba, was a key and complex agreement governing several aspects of the Palestinian territories of Gaza Strip and the West Bank.-History:It...

 in 1995.

Second Intifada


During the Second Palestinian Intifada, which began in 2000-01, Bethlehem's infrastructure and tourism industry
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 were severely damaged. In 2002, it was a primary combat zone in Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield was a large-scale military operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces in 2002, during the course of the Second Intifada. It was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War. The operation was an attempt by the Israeli army to stop the...

, a major military offensive by the Israeli Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 (IDF).

During the operation, the IDF besieged the Church of the Nativity
Siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
The Siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem lasted from April 2 to May 10, 2002 in Bethlehem in the West Bank. As part of Operation Defensive Shield, the Israel Defense Forces occupied Bethlehem and tried to capture wanted Palestinian militants. Dozens of them fled into the Church of the...

, where about 200 Palestinian militants sought refuge in the Church. The siege lasted for 39 days and nine militants and the church's bellringer were killed. It ended with an agreement to exile 13 of the wanted militants to various European nations and Mauritania
Mauritania
Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest...

.

Geography


Bethlehem is located at 31°43′0"N 35°12′0"E
Bethlehem stands at an elevation of about 775 metres (2,542.7 ft) above sea level
Above mean sea level
The term above mean sea level refers to the elevation or altitude of any object, relative to the average sea level datum. AMSL is used extensively in radio by engineers to determine the coverage area a station will be able to reach...

, 30 metres (98.4 ft) higher than nearby Jerusalem. Bethlehem is situated on the southern portion in the Judean Mountains
Judean Mountains
The Judaean Mountains, ;, also Judaean Hills and Hebron Hills is a mountain range in Israel and the West Bank where Jerusalem and several other biblical cities are located. The mountains reach a height of 1,000 m.-Geography:...

.

The city is located 73 kilometres (45.4 mi) northeast of Gaza
Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

 and the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

, 75 kilometres (46.6 mi) west of Amman
Amman
Amman is the capital of Jordan. It is the country's political, cultural and commercial centre and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Greater Amman area has a population of 2,842,629 as of 2010. The population of Amman is expected to jump from 2.8 million to almost...

, Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, 59 kilometres (36.7 mi) southeast of Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv , officially Tel Aviv-Yafo , is the second most populous city in Israel, with a population of 404,400 on a land area of . The city is located on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline in west-central Israel. It is the largest and most populous city in the metropolitan area of Gush Dan, with...

, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south of Jerusalem. Nearby cities and towns include Beit Safafa
Beit Safafa
Beit Safafa is an Arab neighborhood in south Jerusalem midway between the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Patt and Gilo, on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Beit Safafa had a population of 5,463 in 2000. It covers an area of 1,577 dunams.-History:...

 and Jerusalem to the north, Beit Jala
Beit Jala
Beit Jala is an Arab Christian town in the Bethlehem Governorate of the West Bank. Beit Jala is located 10 km south of Jerusalem, on the western side of the Hebron road, opposite Bethlehem, at altitude...

 to the northwest, Husan
Husan
Husan is a Palestinian town located north of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, nine kilometers west of Bethlehem, in the Bethlehem Governorate. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Husan had a population of 5,511 in 2007.-Etymology:...

 to the west, al-Khadr
Al-Khader
Al-Khader is a Palestinian town in the Bethlehem Governorate in the south-central West Bank. It is located west of Bethlehem. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the town had a population of 9,774 in 2007.-History:...

 and Artas
Artas, Bethlehem
Artas is a Palestinian village located four kilometers southwest of Bethlehem in the Bethlehem Governorate in the central West Bank. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the town had a population of 3,663 in 2007.-History:...

 to the southwest, and Beit Sahour
Beit Sahour
Beit Sahour is a Palestinian town east of Bethlehem under the administration of the Palestinian National Authority...

 to the east. Beit Jala and the latter form an agglomeration with Bethlehem and the Aida
Aida (camp)
Aida is a Palestinian refugee camp situated 2 kilometers North of Bethlehem and 1 kilometer North of Beit Jala in the central West Bank...

 and Azza
'Azza
Azza, [also spelled Azzeh, Azzah or Alazzeh] or Beit Jibrin is a Palestinian refugee camp in the Bethlehem Governorate located within the city of Bethlehem. It is the smallest refugee camp between the 59 refugee camps in the West Bank and the other Arab countries...

 refugee camps are located within the city limits.

Old city


In the center of Bethlehem is its old city. The old city consists of eight quarters, laid out in a mosaic style, forming the area around the Manger Square. The quarters include the Christian al-Najajreh, al-Farahiyeh, al-Anatreh, al-Tarajmeh, al-Qawawsa and Hreizat quarters and al-Fawaghreh — the only Muslim quarter. Most of the Christian quarters are named after the Arab Ghassanid
Ghassanids
The Ghassanids were a group of South Arabian Christian tribes that emigrated in the early 3rd century from Yemen to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the Holy Land....

 clans that settled there. Al-Qawawsa Quarter was formed by Arab Christian emigrants from the nearby town of Tuqu'
Tuqu'
Tuquʿ is a Palestinian town in the Bethlehem Governorate, located 12 km southeast of Bethlehem in the West Bank. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics , Tuqu' had a population of 8,881 in 2007.The town is a part of the 'Arab al-Ta'amira cluster, along with Za'atara, Beit...

 in the 18th century. There is also a Syriac
Syriac language
Syriac is a dialect of Middle Aramaic that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. Having first appeared as a script in the 1st century AD after being spoken as an unwritten language for five centuries, Classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from...

 quarter outside of the old city, whose inhabitants originate from Midyat
Midyat
Midyat is an originally Assyrian/Syriac town in Mardin Province of Turkey. The ancient city is the epicenter of a centuries-old Assyrian/Syriac enclave in Southeast-Turkey, widely familiar under its Syriac name Tur Abdin. A cognate of the name Midyat is first encountered in an inscription of the...

 and Ma'asarte in Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. The total population of the old city is about 5,000.

Climate


Bethlehem has a Mediterranean climate
Mediterranean climate
A Mediterranean climate is the climate typical of most of the lands in the Mediterranean Basin, and is a particular variety of subtropical climate...

, with hot and dry summers and cold winters. Winter temperatures (mid-December to mid-March) can be cold and rainy. January is the coldest month, with temperatures ranging from 1 to 13 degree Celsius (33–55 °F). From May through September, the weather is warm and sunny. August is the hottest month, with a high of 27 degrees Celsius (81 °F). Bethlehem receives an average of 700 millimetres (27.6 in) of rainfall annually, 70% between November and January.

Bethlehem's average annual relative humidity
Humidity
Humidity is a term for the amount of water vapor in the air, and can refer to any one of several measurements of humidity. Formally, humid air is not "moist air" but a mixture of water vapor and other constituents of air, and humidity is defined in terms of the water content of this mixture,...

 is 60% and reaches its highest rates between January and February. Humidity levels are at their lowest in May. Night dew may occur in up to 180 days per year. The city is influenced by the Mediterranean Sea breeze that occurs around mid-day. However, Bethlehem is affected also by annual waves of hot, dry, sandy and dust Khamaseen winds from the Arabian Desert
Arabian Desert
The Arabian Desert is a vast desert wilderness stretching from Yemen to the Persian Gulf and Oman to Jordan and Iraq. It occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula, with an area of...

, during April, May and mid-June.

Population

Year Population
1867 3,000-4,000
1945 8,820
1961 22,450
1983 16,300
1997 21,930
2004 (Projected) 28,010
2006 (Projected) 29,930
2007 25,266

In the PCBS's 1997 census, the city had a population of 21,670, including a total of 6,570 refugees
Palestinian refugee
Palestinian refugees or Palestine refugees are the people and their descendants, predominantly Palestinian Arabic-speakers, who fled or were expelled from their homes during and after the 1948 Palestine War, within that part of the British Mandate of Palestine, that after that war became the...

, accounting for 30.3% of the city's population. In 1997, the age distribution of Bethlehem's inhabitants was 27.4% under the age of 10, 20% from 10 to 19, 17.3% from 20-29, 17.7% from 30 to 44, 12.1% from 45-64 and 5.3% above the age of 65. There were 11,079 males and 10,594 females.

According to a PCBS estimate, Bethlehem's population was 29,930 in mid 2006. The 2007 PCBS census, however, revealed a population of 25,266, of which 12,753 were males and 12,513 were females. There were 6,709 housing units, of which 5,211 were households. The average household consisted of 4.8 family members.

According to Ottoman tax records, Christians made up roughly 60% of the population in the early 16th century, while the Christian and Muslim population became equal in the mid-16th century. There were no Muslim inhabitants by the end of the century, with a recorded population of 287 adult male tax-payers. Christians, like all non-Muslims throughout the Ottoman Empire, were required to pay the jizya
Jizya
Under Islamic law, jizya or jizyah is a per capita tax levied on a section of an Islamic state's non-Muslim citizens, who meet certain criteria...

 tax. In 1867 an American visitor describes the town as having a population of 3,000 to 4,000; of whom about 100 were Protestants
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

, 300 were Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s and "the remainder belonging to the Latin and Greek Churches with a few Armenians". Another report from the same year puts the Christian population at 3,000, with an additional 50 Muslims.

In 1948, the religious makeup of the city was 85% Christian
Arab Christians
Arab Christians are ethnic Arabs of Christian faith, sometimes also including those, who are identified with Arab panethnicity. They are the remnants of ancient Arab Christian clans or Arabized Christians. Many of the modern Arab Christians are descendants of pre-Islamic Christian Arabian tribes,...

, mostly of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations, and 13% Sunni Muslim
Sunni Islam
Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam. Sunni Muslims are referred to in Arabic as ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah wa āl-Ǧamāʿah or ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah for short; in English, they are known as Sunni Muslims, Sunnis or Sunnites....

. By 2005, the proportion of Christian residents had decreased dramatically, to about 40% to 50%. The only mosque in the Old City is the Mosque of Omar
Mosque of Omar (Bethlehem)
The Mosque of Omar is the oldest and only mosque in the old city of Bethlehem, located in Manger Square, near the Church of the Nativity.-History:The mosque is named after Omar ibn al-Khattab , the second Rashidun Muslim Caliph...

, located in the Manger Square.

Christian population


Many of Bethlehem's Christian inhabitants claim ancestry from Arab Christian
Arab Christians
Arab Christians are ethnic Arabs of Christian faith, sometimes also including those, who are identified with Arab panethnicity. They are the remnants of ancient Arab Christian clans or Arabized Christians. Many of the modern Arab Christians are descendants of pre-Islamic Christian Arabian tribes,...

 clans from the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

, including the city's two largest: al-Farahiyya and an-Najajreh. The former claims to have descended from the Ghassanids
Ghassanids
The Ghassanids were a group of South Arabian Christian tribes that emigrated in the early 3rd century from Yemen to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the Holy Land....

 who migrated from Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 to the Wadi Musa
Wadi Musa
Wadi Musa, , is the name of a town located in the Ma'an Governorate in southern Jordan east of Petra at latitude 30.317N and longitude 35.483E....

 area in present-day Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 and an-Najajreh descend from the Arabs of Najran
Najran
Najran , formerly known as Aba as Sa'ud, is a city in southwestern Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen. It is the capital of Najran Province. Designated a New town, Najran is one of the fastest-growing cities in the kingdom; its population has risen from 47,500 in 1974 and 90,983 in 1992 to...

 in the southern Hejaz
Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

. Another Bethlehem clan, al-Anantreh, also trace their ancestry to the Arabian Peninsula.

In the past decades, the percentage of Christians in the town has been steadily falling, primarily due to continuous emigration. The lower birth rate of Christians than Muslims also accounts for some of the decline. In 1947, Christians made up 85% of the population, but by 1998 this figure had declined to 40%. The current mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh
Victor Batarseh
Victor Batarseh is the mayor of Bethlehem in the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territories, elected in 2005. He was elected as the candidate of the Bethlehem Brotherhood and Development bloc...

 told the Voice of America
Voice of America
Voice of America is the official external broadcast institution of the United States federal government. It is one of five civilian U.S. international broadcasters working under the umbrella of the Broadcasting Board of Governors . VOA provides a wide range of programming for broadcast on radio...

 that, "due to the stress, either physical or psychological, and the bad economic situation, many people are emigrating, either Christians or Muslims, but it is more apparent among Christians, because they already are a minority."

Palestinian Authority rule following the Interim Agreements is officially committed to equality for Bethlehem area Christians, although there have been a few incidents of violence against them by the Preventive Security Service and militant factions.

The outbreak of the Second Intifada and the resultant decrease in tourism has also affected the Christian minority, leaving many economically stricken as they are the owners of many Bethlehem hotels and services that cater to foreign tourists. A statistical analysis
Statistics
Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments....

 of why Christians are leaving the area blamed the lack of economic and educational opportunities, especially due to the Christians' middle-class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

 status and higher education
Higher education
Higher, post-secondary, tertiary, or third level education refers to the stage of learning that occurs at universities, academies, colleges, seminaries, and institutes of technology...

. Since the Second Intifada, 10% of the Christian population have left the city.

A 2006 poll of Bethlehem's Christians conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Research and Cultural Dialogue, found that 90% reported having Muslim friends, 73.3% agreed that the Palestinian National Authority treats Christian heritage in the city with respect and 78% attributed the ongoing exodus of Christians from Bethlehem to the Israeli travel restrictions in the area.

Shopping and industry


Shopping is a major sector in Bethlehem, especially during the Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 season. The city's main streets and old markets are lined with shops selling handicrafts, Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

ern spices, jewelry and oriental sweets such as baklawa
Baklava
Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. It is characteristic of the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and much of central and southwest Asia....

.

The tradition of making handicrafts
Palestinian handicrafts
Palestinian handicrafts are handicrafts produced by Palestinian people. A wide variety of handicrafts, many of which have been produced by Arabs in Palestine for hundreds of years, continue to be produced today. Palestinian handicrafts include embroidery work, pottery-making, soap-making,...

 in the city dates back to its founding. Numerous shops in Bethlehem sell olive wood carving
Wood carving
Wood carving is a form of working wood by means of a cutting tool in one hand or a chisel by two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, resulting in a wooden figure or figurine, or in the sculptural ornamentation of a wooden object...

s — for which the city is renowned — made from the local olive groves. The carvings are the main product purchased by tourists visiting Bethlehem. Religious handicrafts are also a major industry in Bethlehem, and some products include ornaments handmade from mother-of-pearl
Nacre
Nacre , also known as mother of pearl, is an organic-inorganic composite material produced by some mollusks as an inner shell layer; it is also what makes up pearls. It is very strong, resilient, and iridescent....

, as well as olive wood statues, boxes, and crosses. The art of creating mother-of-pearl handicrafts
Mother-of-Pearl carving in Bethlehem
Mother-of-Pearl carving has been a Bethlehem tradition since the art was introduced to the city by Franciscan friars from Damascus during the 14th century....

 was introduced to Bethlehem by Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 friar
Friar
A friar is a member of one of the mendicant orders.-Friars and monks:...

s from Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 during the 14th century. Stone and marble-cutting, textiles, furniture and furnishings are other prevalent industries. Bethlehem also produces paints, plastics, synthetic rubber
Synthetic rubber
Synthetic rubber is is any type of artificial elastomer, invariably a polymer. An elastomer is a material with the mechanical property that it can undergo much more elastic deformation under stress than most materials and still return to its previous size without permanent deformation...

, pharmaceuticals, construction materials and food products, mainly pasta and confectionery.

Bethlehem has a wine-producing company, Cremisan Wine
Cremisan
The Cremisan Monastery is a Salesian monastery in the West Bank, near Beit Jala. The monastery, located on a hill 850 metres above sea level, is five kilometres from Bethlehem and 12 kilometres from Jerusalem...

, founded in 1885, that currently exports wine to several countries. The wine is produced by monks in the Monastery of Cremisan, and the majority of the grapes are harvested from the al-Khader
Al-Khader
Al-Khader is a Palestinian town in the Bethlehem Governorate in the south-central West Bank. It is located west of Bethlehem. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the town had a population of 9,774 in 2007.-History:...

 area. The monastery's wine production is around 700,000 liters per year.

Tourism



Tourism is Bethlehem's main industry and unlike other Palestinian localities before 2000, the majority of the working residents did not work in Israel. Over 25% of the working population was employed directly or indirectly in the industry. Tourism accounts for approximately 65% of the city's economy and 11% of the Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian National Authority
The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip...

.

The Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. The structure is built over the cave that tradition marks as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, and thus it is considered sacred by Christians...

 is one of Bethlehem's major tourist attraction
Tourist attraction
A tourist attraction is a place of interest where tourists visit, typically for its inherent or exhibited cultural value, historical significance, natural or built beauty, or amusement opportunities....

s and a magnet for Christian pilgrims. It stands in the center of the city — a part of the Manger Square
Manger Square
Manger Square is an important city square in the center of Bethlehem. It takes its name from the manger where Jesus was born which, according to Christian dogma, is in the Church of the Nativity, possibly the oldest existing church in the world, which surrounds the square. Also around Manger...

 — over a grotto or cave called the Holy Crypt, where Jesus supposedly was born. Nearby is the Milk Grotto where the Holy Family took refuge on their Flight to Egypt and next door is the cave where St. Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

 spent thirty years translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Latin
Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

.

There are over thirty hotels in Bethlehem. Jacir Palace
Jacir Palace
Jacir Palace or Qasr Jacir is the largest hotel in Bethlehem in the central West Bank. The building's original design was based on typical Palestinian architecture and the characteristics of an Arab household. Jacir Palace has three floors, each spanning 800 square meters...

, built in 1910 near the church, is one of Bethlehem's most successful hotels and its oldest. It was closed down in 2000 due to the violence of the Second Intifada, but reopened in 2005.

Economic conference



Bethlehem hosted the largest ever economic conference in the Palestinian territories
Palestinian territories
The Palestinian territories comprise the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988, the region is today recognized by three-quarters of the world's countries as the State of Palestine or simply Palestine, although this status is not recognized by the...

 on May 21, 2008. It was initiated by Palestinian Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority
The Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority is the head of government of the Palestinian Authority government.The Prime Minister's Office was created in 2003 to manage day-to-day activities of the Palestinian government. The position was created because both Israel and the United...

 and former Finance Minister
Finance Minister of the Palestinian National Authority
The Finance Minister of the Palestinian Authority is the head of the Palestinian National Authority branch that is in charge of finance. The minister deals with launching audits, collecting tax from Palestinian businesses and overseeing financial aid directed to the PNA...

 Salam Fayyad
Salam Fayyad
Salam Fayyad is a Palestinian politician and Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority of the Palestinian National Authority. His first appointment, on 15 June 2007, which was justified by President Mahmoud Abbas on the basis of "national emergency", has not been confirmed by the...

 to convince over 1,000 businessmen, bankers and government officials from throughout the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 to invest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip
thumb|Gaza city skylineThe Gaza Strip lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about long, and between 6 and 12 kilometres wide, with a total area of...

, although Fayyad admitted the territories were "far from the perfect business environment", being directly linked with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Israeli–Palestinian conflict
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict is wide-ranging, and the term is also used in reference to the earlier phases of the same conflict, between Jewish and Zionist yishuv and the Arab population living in Palestine under Ottoman or...

. Nonetheless, 1.4 billion US dollars was secured for business investments in the Palestinian territories.

Embroidery


Before the establishment of Israel as a state, Bethlehem costumes and embroidery were popular in villages throughout the Judaean Hills and the coastal plain
Coastal plain
A coastal plain is an area of flat, low-lying land adjacent to a seacoast and separated from the interior by other features. One of the world's longest coastal plains is located in eastern South America. The southwestern coastal plain of North America is notable for its species diversity...

. The women embroiderers of Bethlehem and the neighboring villages of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour were known to be professional producers of wedding costumes. Bethlehem was a center for embroidery producing a "strong overall effect of colors and metallic brilliance."

Less formal dresses in Bethlehem were generally made of indigo fabric and a sleeveless coat (bisht), made from locally woven wool, was worn over top. Dresses for special occasions were made of striped silk with winged sleeves and the short taqsireh jacket, known throughout Palestinian as the Bethlehem jacket, was worn over it. The taqsireh was made of velvet
Velvet
Velvet is a type of woven tufted fabric in which the cut threads are evenly distributed,with a short dense pile, giving it a distinctive feel.The word 'velvety' is used as an adjective to mean -"smooth like velvet".-Composition:...

 or broadcloth
Broadcloth
Broadcloth is a dense woollen cloth. Modern broadcloth can be composed of cotton, silk, or polyester, but traditionally broadcloth was made solely of wool. The dense weave lends sturdiness to the material....

, usually with heavy embroidery.

Bethlehem work was unique in its use of couched gold or silver cord, or silk cord onto the silk, wool, felt or velvet used for the garment, to create stylized floral patterns with free or rounded lines. This technique was used for "royal" wedding dress
Wedding dress
A wedding dress or wedding gown is the clothing worn by a bride during a wedding ceremony. Color, style and ceremonial importance of the gown can depend on the religion and culture of the wedding participants.- Western culture :...

es (thob malak), taqsirehs and the shatwehs worn by married women. It has been traced by some to Byzantium
Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

, and by others to the more formal costumes of the Ottoman Empire's elite. As Bethlehem was a Christian village, local women were also exposed to the detailing on church vestments with their heavy embroidery and silver brocade.

Mother-of-Pearl carving



The art of mother-of-pearl carving has been a Bethlehem tradition since the 14th century when it was introduced to the city by Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 friar
Friar
A friar is a member of one of the mendicant orders.-Friars and monks:...

s from Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. Bethlehem's position as an important Christian city has for centuries attracted a constant stream of pilgrim
Pilgrim
A pilgrim is a traveler who is on a journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journeying to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system...

s. This generated much local work and income, also for women, including making mother-of-pearl souvenirs. It was noted by Richard Pococke
Richard Pococke
Richard Pococke was an English prelate and anthropologist. He was Protestant Bishop of Ossory and Meath , both dioceses of the Church of Ireland...

, who travelled there in 1727.

Present day products include crosses, earrings, brooches, maps of Palestine, and picture frames.

Cultural centers and museums



Bethlehem is home to the Palestinian Heritage Center
Palestinian Heritage Center
The Palestinian Heritage Center is a Palestinian cultural center located in Bethlehem. It was established in 1991 by Maha Saca. The center contains several exhibitions on Palestinian costumes, folklore, history, and other cultural aspects.-Sources:*...

, established in 1991. The center aims to preserve and promote Palestinian embroidery
Palestinian costumes
Palestinian costumes are the traditional clothing worn by Palestinians. Foreign travelers to Palestine in the 19th and early 20th centuries often commented on the rich variety of the costumes worn, particularly by the fellaheen or village women...

, art
Palestinian art
Palestinian art is a term used to refer to paintings, posters, installation art and other visual media produced by Palestinian artists.While the term has also been used to refer to ancient art produced in the geographical region of Palestine, in its modern usage it generally refers to work of...

 and folklore. The International Center of Bethlehem is another cultural center that concentrates primarily on the culture of Bethlehem. It provides language and guide training, woman's studies and arts and crafts
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts comprise a whole host of activities and hobbies that are related to making things with one's hands and skill. These can be sub-divided into handicrafts or "traditional crafts" and "the rest"...

 displays, and training.

The Bethlehem branch of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music
The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music
The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music is a Palestinian music conservatory with branches in Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem. In total, there are more than 500 students. It was established in 1993 as The National Conservatory of Music, with its first branch, in Ramallah, opening in...

 has about 500 students. Its primary goals are to teach children music, train teachers for other schools, sponsor music research, and the study of Palestinian folklore music.

Bethlehem has four museums located within its municipal borders. The Crib of the Nativity Theatre and Museum offers visitors 31 3D models depicting the significant stages of the life of Jesus. Its theater presents a 20-minute animated show. The Badd Giacaman Museum
Badd Giacaman Museum
The Badd Giacaman Museum is located in the center of Bethlehem, near the Church of the Nativity. The building in which the museum was built dates from the 18th–19th century...

, located in the Old City of Bethlehem, dates back to the 18th century and is primarily dedicated to the history and process of olive oil
Olive oil
Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive , a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps...

 production.

Baituna al-Talhami Museum
Baituna al-Talhami Museum
Baituna al-Talhami Museum or the Bethlehem Folklore Museum is one of the largest museums in the Palestinian territories. It is located in Bethlehem, on Star Street....

, established in 1972, contains displays of the culture of Bethlehem's inhabitants. The International Museum of Nativity was designed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 (UNESCO) for the purpose of showing works of "high artistic quality in an evocative atmosphere".

Festivals


Christmas rites are held in Bethlehem on three different dates: December 25 is the traditional date by the Roman Catholic and Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 denominations, but Greek, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox
Syriac Orthodox Church
The Syriac Orthodox Church; is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Eastern Mediterranean, with members spread throughout the world. The Syriac Orthodox Church claims to derive its origin from one of the first Christian communities, established in Antioch by the Apostle St....

 Christians celebrate Christmas on January 6 and Armenian Orthodox
Armenian Apostolic Church
The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest National Church, is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, and is one of the most ancient Christian communities. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD, in establishing this church...

 Christians on January 19. Most Christmas processions pass through Manger Square, the plaza outside the Basilica of the Nativity. Roman Catholic services take place in St. Catherine's Church (Bethlehem) and Protestants often hold services at Shepherds' Fields.

Bethlehem, like other Palestinian localities, participates in festivals related to saints and prophets that are attached to Palestinian folklore. One such festival is the annual Feast of Saint George
Feast of Saint George
The Feast of Saint George is a Palestinian holiday commemorating Saint George . The feast occurs annually on 5 May, and although it is originally a local Christian holiday, both Palestinian Christians and Muslims participate...

 (al-Khadr
Al-Khidr
Khidr or Al-Khidr is a revered figure in Islam, whom the Qur'an describes as a righteous servant of God, who possessed great wisdom or mystic knowledge, represented iconically by a fish...

) on 5–6 May. During the celebrations, Greek Orthodox Christians from the city march in procession to the nearby town of al-Khader
Al-Khader
Al-Khader is a Palestinian town in the Bethlehem Governorate in the south-central West Bank. It is located west of Bethlehem. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the town had a population of 9,774 in 2007.-History:...

 to baptize newborns in the waters around the Monastery of St. George
Monastery of Saint George, al-Khader
The Monastery of Saint George is an Orthodox Christian monastery in the Palestinian town of al-Khader in the central West Bank. The modern church was built in 1912 but the remains of the chapel date back to the 16th century. The edifice has an Orthodox Christian interior, and the dome contains a...

 and sacrifice a sheep in ritual. The Feast of St. Elijah is commemorated by a procession to Mar Elias, a Greek Orthodox monastery north of Bethlehem.

Government



Bethlehem is the muhfaza (seat) or district capital of the Bethlehem Governorate
Bethlehem Governorate
The Bethlehem Governorate is one of 16 Governorates of the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the Palestinian Territories. It covers an area of the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Its principal city and district capital is Bethlehem...

.

Bethlehem held its first municipal elections in 1876, after the mukhtars ("heads") of the quarters of Bethlehem's Old City (excluding the Syriac Quarter) made the decision to elect a local council of seven members to represent each clan in the town. A Basic Law
Basic Law
The term basic law is used in some places as an alternative to "constitution", implying it is a temporary but necessary measure without formal enactment of constitution. A basic law is either a codified constitution, or in countries with uncodified constitutions, a law given to have constitution...

 was established so that if the victor for mayor was a Catholic, his deputy should be of the Greek Orthodox community.

Throughout, Bethlehem's rule by the British and Jordan, the Syriac Quarter was allowed to participate in the election, as were the Ta'amrah Bedouin
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

s and Palestinian refugees, hence ratifying the amount of municipal members in the council to 11. In 1976, an amendment was passed to allow women to vote and become council members and later the voting age was increased from 21 to 25.

Today, the Bethlehem Municipal Council consists of 15 elected members, including the mayor and deputy mayor. A special statute requires that the mayor and a majority of the municipal council be Christian, while the remainder are open seats, not restricted to any religion.

There are several branches of political parties on the council, including Communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

, Islamist
Islamism
Islamism also , lit., "Political Islam" is set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system. Islamism is a controversial term, and definitions of it sometimes vary...

, and secular. The leftist factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization
Palestine Liberation Organization
The Palestine Liberation Organization is a political and paramilitary organization which was created in 1964. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by the United Nations and over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed...

 (PLO) such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization , the largest being Fatah...

 (PFLP) and the Palestinian People's Party
Palestinian People's Party
The Palestinian People's Party , founded in 1982 as the Palestinian Communist Party, is a socialist political party in the Palestinian territories and among the Palestinian diaspora....

 (PPP) usually dominate the reserved seats. Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 gained the majority of the open seats in the 2005 Palestinian municipal elections.

Elected Candidates of the Bethlehem municipal elections of 2005
Rank List Candidate name Religion
1 Brotherhood & Development
Bethlehem Brotherhood and Development
Bethlehem Brotherhood and Development was a candidature bloc that contested the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, the West Bank. Politically independent, the list included members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In total, the bloc presented 15 candidates...

 (PFLP
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization , the largest being Fatah...

)
Victor Batarseh
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

2 United Bethlehem
United Bethlehem Bloc
United Bethlehem Bloc was a joint list of Fatah, Palestinian People's Party and independents for the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, West Bank. In total, the Bloc presented 15 candidates. The top candidate of the Bloc was Antun Salman, an independent...

 (Fatah
Fatah
Fataḥ is a major Palestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization , a multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the left-wing of the spectrum; it is mainly nationalist, although not predominantly socialist. Its official goals are found...

 and PPP
Palestinian People's Party
The Palestinian People's Party , founded in 1982 as the Palestinian Communist Party, is a socialist political party in the Palestinian territories and among the Palestinian diaspora....

)
Antun Salman
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

3 Reform
Reform Bloc
Reform Bloc was a candidature list that contested the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, the West Bank. The list was launched by Hamas. In total, the Bloc presented 7 candidates. The top candidate of the Bloc was Hassan al-Masalman.-External links:*...

 (Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

)
Hasan al-Masalma
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

4 United Bethlehem
United Bethlehem Bloc
United Bethlehem Bloc was a joint list of Fatah, Palestinian People's Party and independents for the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, West Bank. In total, the Bloc presented 15 candidates. The top candidate of the Bloc was Antun Salman, an independent...

 (Fatah
Fatah
Fataḥ is a major Palestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization , a multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the left-wing of the spectrum; it is mainly nationalist, although not predominantly socialist. Its official goals are found...

 and PPP
Palestinian People's Party
The Palestinian People's Party , founded in 1982 as the Palestinian Communist Party, is a socialist political party in the Palestinian territories and among the Palestinian diaspora....

)
Afram Asmari
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

5 Wafaa
Wafaa Bloc
Wafaa Bloc was a candidature list that contested the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, the West Bank. The list was officially supported by the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine. In total, the Bloc presented 4 candidates. The top candidate of the Bloc was Nasser Isa Hassan...

 (Palestinian Islamic Jihad
Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine
The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine known in the West as simply Palestinian Islamic Jihad , is a small Palestinian militant organization. The group has been labelled as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Australia and Israel...

)
Isa Zawahara
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

6 United Bethlehem
United Bethlehem Bloc
United Bethlehem Bloc was a joint list of Fatah, Palestinian People's Party and independents for the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, West Bank. In total, the Bloc presented 15 candidates. The top candidate of the Bloc was Antun Salman, an independent...

 (Fatah
Fatah
Fataḥ is a major Palestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization , a multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the left-wing of the spectrum; it is mainly nationalist, although not predominantly socialist. Its official goals are found...

 and PPP
Palestinian People's Party
The Palestinian People's Party , founded in 1982 as the Palestinian Communist Party, is a socialist political party in the Palestinian territories and among the Palestinian diaspora....

)
Khalil Chawka
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

7 Reform
Reform Bloc
Reform Bloc was a candidature list that contested the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, the West Bank. The list was launched by Hamas. In total, the Bloc presented 7 candidates. The top candidate of the Bloc was Hassan al-Masalman.-External links:*...

 (Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

)
Khalid Jadu
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

8 Hope & Labour
Hope and Labour Bloc
Hope and Labour Bloc was a candidature list that contested the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, the West Bank. The Bloc was launched by a dissident grouping of Fatah, which officially backed the United Bethlehem Bloc. In total, the Hope and Labour Bloc presented 12 candidates. The top...

 (Fatah
Fatah
Fataḥ is a major Palestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization , a multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the left-wing of the spectrum; it is mainly nationalist, although not predominantly socialist. Its official goals are found...

)
Zughbi Zughbi
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

9 Reform
Reform Bloc
Reform Bloc was a candidature list that contested the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, the West Bank. The list was launched by Hamas. In total, the Bloc presented 7 candidates. The top candidate of the Bloc was Hassan al-Masalman.-External links:*...

 (Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

)
Nabil al-Hraymi
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

10 Reform
Reform Bloc
Reform Bloc was a candidature list that contested the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, the West Bank. The list was launched by Hamas. In total, the Bloc presented 7 candidates. The top candidate of the Bloc was Hassan al-Masalman.-External links:*...

 (Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

)
Salih Chawka
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

11 Reform
Reform Bloc
Reform Bloc was a candidature list that contested the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, the West Bank. The list was launched by Hamas. In total, the Bloc presented 7 candidates. The top candidate of the Bloc was Hassan al-Masalman.-External links:*...

 (Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

)
Yusuf al-Natsha
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

12 Brotherhood & Development
Bethlehem Brotherhood and Development
Bethlehem Brotherhood and Development was a candidature bloc that contested the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, the West Bank. Politically independent, the list included members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In total, the bloc presented 15 candidates...

 (PFLP
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization , the largest being Fatah...

)
Nina 'Atwan
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

13 Brotherhood & Development
Bethlehem Brotherhood and Development
Bethlehem Brotherhood and Development was a candidature bloc that contested the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, the West Bank. Politically independent, the list included members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In total, the bloc presented 15 candidates...

 (Independent
Independent (politician)
In politics, an independent or non-party politician is an individual not affiliated to any political party. Independents may hold a centrist viewpoint between those of major political parties, a viewpoint more extreme than any major party, or they may have a viewpoint based on issues that they do...

)
George Saadeh
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

14 Independent
Independent (politician)
In politics, an independent or non-party politician is an individual not affiliated to any political party. Independents may hold a centrist viewpoint between those of major political parties, a viewpoint more extreme than any major party, or they may have a viewpoint based on issues that they do...

Nadir al-Saqa
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

15 United Bethlehem
United Bethlehem Bloc
United Bethlehem Bloc was a joint list of Fatah, Palestinian People's Party and independents for the May 2005 municipal elections in Bethlehem, West Bank. In total, the Bloc presented 15 candidates. The top candidate of the Bloc was Antun Salman, an independent...

 (Fatah
Fatah
Fataḥ is a major Palestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization , a multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the left-wing of the spectrum; it is mainly nationalist, although not predominantly socialist. Its official goals are found...

 and PPP
Palestinian People's Party
The Palestinian People's Party , founded in 1982 as the Palestinian Communist Party, is a socialist political party in the Palestinian territories and among the Palestinian diaspora....

)
Duha al-Bandak
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...


Mayors


The mayor and the deputy mayor of Bethlehem are required by municipal law to be Christian.

  • Mikhail Abu Saadeh - 1876
  • Khalil Yaqub - 1880
  • Suleiman Jacir - 1884
  • Issa Abdullah Marcus - 1888
  • Yaqub Khalil Elias - 1892
  • Hanna Mansur - 1895–1915
  • Salim Issa al-Batarseh - 1916–17
  • Salah Giries Jaqaman - 1917–21
  • Musa Qattan - 1921–25
  • Hanna Ibrahim Miladah - 1926–28
  • Nicoloa Attalah Shain - 1929-1933

  • Hanna Issa al-Qawwas - 1936–46
  • Issa Basil Bandak
    Issa Basil Bandak
    Born in Bethlehem in 1891 to a Christian family; educated in Bethlehem and Jerusalem; intended to study Medicine in Montpellier but was prevented by the outbreak of WWI; studied telegraph intelligence instead and became Director of the telegraph service in Syria, Jordan and Jerusalem during Ottoman...

     - 1946–51
  • Elias Bandak
    Elias Bandak
    Elias 'Issa Bandak was the mayor of Bethlehem from 1951-52, 1953-57, and from 1963-72, serving three separate terms. He succeeded his cousin Issa Basil Bandak. Bandak is a Palestinian Christian....

     - 1951–53
  • Afif Salm Batarseh - 1952–53
  • Elias Bandak
    Elias Bandak
    Elias 'Issa Bandak was the mayor of Bethlehem from 1951-52, 1953-57, and from 1963-72, serving three separate terms. He succeeded his cousin Issa Basil Bandak. Bandak is a Palestinian Christian....

     - 1953–57
  • Ayyub Musallam
    Ayyub Musallam
    -References:*...

     - 1958–62
  • Elias Bandak
    Elias Bandak
    Elias 'Issa Bandak was the mayor of Bethlehem from 1951-52, 1953-57, and from 1963-72, serving three separate terms. He succeeded his cousin Issa Basil Bandak. Bandak is a Palestinian Christian....

     - 1963–72
  • Elias Freij
    Elias Freij
    Elias Mitri Freij , a Palestinian Christian, who follow the Orthodox Christian church of Jerusalem, was mayor of Bethlehem from 1972-1997....

     - 1972–97
  • Hanna Nasser
    Hanna Nasser
    Hanna Nasser was the mayor of Bethlehem from 1997 to 2005, being succeeded by Victor Batarseh. Nasser is a Palestinian Christian.-External links:* BBC News...

     - 1997–2005
  • Victor Batarseh
    Victor Batarseh
    Victor Batarseh is the mayor of Bethlehem in the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territories, elected in 2005. He was elected as the candidate of the Bethlehem Brotherhood and Development bloc...

     (current) - 2005–

Education


According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics is the statistical organization under the umbrella of the Palestinian Cabinet of the Palestinian National Authority....

 (PCBS), in 1997, approximately 84% of Bethlehem's population over the age of 10 was literate. Of the city's population, 10,414 were enrolled in schools (4,015 in primary school
Primary education
A primary school is an institution in which children receive the first stage of compulsory education known as primary or elementary education. Primary school is the preferred term in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth Nations, and in most publications of the United Nations Educational,...

, 3,578 in secondary and 2,821 in high school). About 14.1% of high school students received diplomas. There were 135 schools in the Bethlehem Governorate
Bethlehem Governorate
The Bethlehem Governorate is one of 16 Governorates of the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the Palestinian Territories. It covers an area of the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Its principal city and district capital is Bethlehem...

 in 2006; 100 run the Education Ministry of the Palestinian National Authority
Education Minister of the Palestinian National Authority
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education of the Palestinian National Authority is the branch of the Palestinian government in charge of managing the education in the Palestinian territories. It was established in 1994 after the formation of the Palestinian National Authority...

, seven by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East is a relief and human development agency, providing education, health care, social services and emergency aid to 5 million Palestine refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza...

 (UNRWA) and 28 were private.

Bethlehem is home to Bethlehem University
Bethlehem University
Bethlehem University is the first university founded in the West Bank, Palestine. Bethlehem University traces its roots to 1893 when the De La Salle Christian Brothers opened schools in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nazareth, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt....

, a Catholic Christian co-educational institution of higher learning founded in 1973 in the Lasallian tradition, open to students of all faiths. Bethlehem University is the first university established in the West Bank, and can trace its roots to 1893 when the De La Salle Christian Brothers
Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools is a Roman Catholic religious teaching congregation, founded in France by Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle and now based in Rome...

 opened schools throughout Palestine and Egypt.

Transportation



Services


Bethlehem has three bus stations owned by private companies which offer service to Jerusalem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Hebron
Hebron
Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

, Nahalin, Battir
Battir
Battir is an ancient town located in the West Bank, 5km west of Bethlehem, and south west of Jerusalem. It has a population of about 4,000 inhabitants. Battir sits just above the railway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which also served as the armistice line between Israel and Jordan from 1948 to 1967...

, al-Khader
Al-Khader
Al-Khader is a Palestinian town in the Bethlehem Governorate in the south-central West Bank. It is located west of Bethlehem. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the town had a population of 9,774 in 2007.-History:...

, al-Ubeidiya
Al-Ubeidiya
Al-Ubeidiya is a Palestinian town located east of Bethlehem. The town is a part of the Bethlehem Governorate in the central West Bank. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics , al-Ubeidiya had a population of over 10,753 in 2007....

 and Beit Fajjar
Beit Fajjar
Beit Fajjar is a Palestinian town located eight kilometers south of Bethlehem in the Bethlehem Governorate, in the central West Bank. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the town had a population of over 11,000 in 2007.-History:...

. There are two taxi stations that make trips to Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, Jerusalem, Tuqu'
Tuqu'
Tuquʿ is a Palestinian town in the Bethlehem Governorate, located 12 km southeast of Bethlehem in the West Bank. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics , Tuqu' had a population of 8,881 in 2007.The town is a part of the 'Arab al-Ta'amira cluster, along with Za'atara, Beit...

 and Herodium
Herodium
Herodium or Herodion is a volcano-like hill with a truncated cone located south of Jerusalem, near the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Herod the Great built a fortress and palace on the top of Herodium, and may have been buried there...

. There are also two car rental departments: Murad and 'Orabi. Buses and taxis with West Bank licenses are not allowed to enter Israel, including Jerusalem, without a permit.

Movement restrictions


The Israeli construction of the West Bank barrier
Israeli West Bank barrier
The Israeli West Bank barrier is a separation barrier being constructed by the State of Israel along and within the West Bank. Upon completion, the barrier’s total length will be approximately...

 has had an impact on Bethlehem politically, socially, and economically. The barrier runs along the northern side of the town's built-up area, within meters of houses in 'Aida refugee camp
Refugee camp
A refugee camp is a temporary settlement built to receive refugees. Hundreds of thousands of people may live in any one single camp. Usually they are built and run by a government, the United Nations, or international organizations, or NGOs.Refugee camps are generally set up in an impromptu...

 on one side, and the Jerusalem municipality on the other.

Most entrances and exits from the Bethlehem agglomeration to the rest of the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 are currently subject to Israeli checkpoints
Israel Defense Forces checkpoint
A Israel Defense Forces checkpoint, usually called an Israeli checkpoint , is a barrier erected by the Israel Defense Forces with the stated aim of enhancing the security of Israel and Israeli settlements and preventing those who wish to do harm from crossing...

 and roadblocks. The level of access varies based on Israeli security directives. Travel for Bethlehem's Palestinian residents from the West Bank into Jerusalem is regulated by a permit-system. Acquiring such permits to enter, what in the past served in many ways as an urban anchor to Bethlehem, has become exceedingly rare since the onset of the violence surrounding the Second Intifada, though Israel has subsequently erected a terminal to ease transit between the two adjoining cities.

Palestinians are not allowed to enter the Jewish holy site of Rachel's Tomb
Rachel's Tomb
Rachel's Tomb , also known as the Dome of Rachel, , is an ancient structure believed to be the burial place of the biblical matriarch Rachel. It is located on the outskirts of Bethlehem, a Palestinian city just south of Jerusalem, in the West Bank...

, which is on the outskirts of the city, without a permit. Since Bethlehem and the nearby biblical Solomon's Pools
Solomon's Pools
Solomon's Pools , are located immediately to the south of al-Khader and about 5 kilometres southwest of Bethlehem. The pools consist of three open cisterns, each pool with a 6 metre drop to the next, fed from an underground spring. With each pool being over 100 metres long, 65 metres wide and 10...

 lie in Area A (territory under both PNA military and civil administration), Israeli citizens are barred without a permit from the Israeli military authorities.

Twin towns — Sister cities


Bethlehem is twinned with:
Marrickville
Marrickville, New South Wales
Marrickville, a suburb of Sydney's Inner West is located 7 kilometres south-west of the Sydney central business district in the state of New South Wales, Australia and is the largest suburb in the Marrickville Council local government area...

Australia Steyr
Steyr
Steyr is a town, located in the Austrian federal state of Upper Austria. The town is situated at the confluence of the rivers Steyr and Enns. Steyr is Austria's 12th most populated town and simultaneously the 3rd largest town in Upper Austria....

Austria Belo Horizonte
Belo Horizonte
Belo Horizonte is the capital of and largest city in the state of Minas Gerais, located in the southeastern region of Brazil. It is the third largest metropolitan area in the country...

Brazil Natal
Natal, Rio Grande do Norte
-History:The northeastern tip of South America, Cabo São Roque, to the north of Natal and the closest point to Europe from Latin America, was first visited by European navigators in 1501, in the 1501–1502 Portuguese expedition led by Amerigo Vespucci, who named the spot after the saint of the day...

Brazil Valinhos
Valinhos
Valinhos is a city and municipality in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. It is the birthplace of Adoniran Barbosa. Valinhos is famous for its purple fig, the theme of its annual Fig Fest. It is geographically close to Campinas. The city's estimated population in 2009 was107,481. Its area is...

Brazil São Pedro do Butiá Brazil Villa Alemana
Villa Alemana
Villa Alemana is a city and commune in Chile's Zona Central. It was founded in 1896 by Italian and German immigrants. Villa Alemana is a part of the urban area known as Greater Valparaiso.- History :...

Chile Concepción
Concepción, Chile
Concepción is a city in Chile, capital of Concepción Province and of the Biobío Region or Region VIII. Greater Concepción is the second-largest conurbation in the country, with 889,725 inhabitants...

Chile Třebechovice pod Orebem
Trebechovice pod Orebem
Třebechovice pod Orebem is a town in the Hradec Králové Region of the Czech Republic. It has ca. 5,600 inhabitants.-External links:* *...

Czech Republic Chartres
Chartres
Chartres is a commune and capital of the Eure-et-Loir department in northern France. It is located southwest of Paris.-Geography:Chartres is built on the left bank of the Eure River, on a hill crowned by its famous cathedral, the spires of which are a landmark in the surrounding country...

France Grenoble
Grenoble
Grenoble is a city in southeastern France, at the foot of the French Alps where the river Drac joins the Isère. Located in the Rhône-Alpes region, Grenoble is the capital of the department of Isère...

France Paray-le-Monial
Paray-le-Monial
Paray-le-Monial is a commune in the Saône-et-Loire department in the region of Burgundy in eastern France.-History:Paray existed before the monks who gave it its surname of Le Monial, for when Count Lambert of Chalon, together with his wife Adelaide and his friend Mayeul de Cluny, founded there in...

France Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

France Cologne
Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

Germany Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

Greece Kalocsa
Kalocsa
Kalocsa is a town in Bács-Kiskun county, Hungary. It lies 88 miles south of Budapest. It is situated in a marshy but highly productive district, near the left bank of the Danube River. Historically it had greater political and economic importance than at present.Kalocsa is the Episcopal see...

Hungary Assisi
Assisi
- Churches :* The Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi is a World Heritage Site. The Franciscan monastery, il Sacro Convento, and the lower and upper church of St Francis were begun immediately after his canonization in 1228, and completed in 1253...

Italy Civitavecchia
Civitavecchia
Civitavecchia is a town and comune of the province of Rome in the central Italian region of Lazio. A sea port on the Tyrrhenian Sea, it is located 80 kilometers west-north-west of Rome, across the Mignone river. The harbor is formed by two piers and a breakwater, on which is a lighthouse...

Italy
Haapsalu
Haapsalu
Haapsalu is a seaside resort town located on the west coast of Estonia. It's the administrative centre of Lääne County and has a population of 11,618 ....

Estonia (since 2010) Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

Italy Greccio
Greccio
Greccio is an old hilltown and comune of the province of Rieti in the Italian region of Lazio, overhanging the Velino river on a spur of the Monti Sabini, a sub-range of the Apennines, about 16 km by road NW of Rieti, the nearest large town.The actual town of Greccio has been...

Italy Lazio Italy Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

Italy (since 2000) Montevarchi
Montevarchi
Montevarchi is a town and comune in the province of Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy.- History :The town of Montevarchi sprang up around 1100, near to a fortified Benedictine monastery founded by bishop Elempert of Arezzo. At first the castle belonged to the Marquess Bourbon del Monte di Santa Maria, then...

Italy Orvieto
Orvieto
Orvieto is a city and comune in Province of Terni, southwestern Umbria, Italy situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff...

Italy Pavia
Pavia
Pavia , the ancient Ticinum, is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy, northern Italy, 35 km south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It is the capital of the province of Pavia. It has a population of c. 71,000...

Italy Pratovecchio
Pratovecchio
-History:Dono di Paolo, father of the Florentine artist Paolo Uccello, was a barber-surgeon from Pratovecchio. Dono moved to Florence and became a citizen there in 1373.-Main sights:...

Italy San Miniato
San Miniato
San Miniato is a town and comune in the province of Pisa, in the region of Tuscany, Italy.San Miniato sits at an historically strategic location atop three small hills where it dominates the lower Arno valley between the valleys of Egola and Elsa...

Italy Sant'Anastasia
Sant'Anastasia
Sant'Anastasia is a comune in the Province of Naples in the Italian region Campania, located about 13 km northeast of Naples....

Italy Umbria
Umbria
Umbria is a region of modern central Italy. It is one of the smallest Italian regions and the only peninsular region that is landlocked.Its capital is Perugia.Assisi and Norcia are historical towns associated with St. Francis of Assisi, and St...

Italy Verona
Verona
Verona ; German Bern, Dietrichsbern or Welschbern) is a city in the Veneto, northern Italy, with approx. 265,000 inhabitants and one of the seven chef-lieus of the region. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of North-Eastern Italy. The metropolitan area of Verona...

Italy Conversano
Conversano
Conversano is an ancient town and comune in the province of Bari, Apulia, southern Italy. It is located 30 km south-east of Bari, 7 km from the Adriatic coast, at 219 m above sea-level....

Italy Madaba
Madaba
Madaba , is the capital city of Madaba Governorate of Jordan, which has a population of about 60,000. Madaba is the fifth most populous town in Jordan. It is best known for its Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, especially a large Byzantine-era mosaic map of The Holy Land...

Jordan Monterrey
Monterrey
Monterrey , is the capital city of the northeastern state of Nuevo León in the country of Mexico. The city is anchor to the third-largest metropolitan area in Mexico and is ranked as the ninth-largest city in the nation. Monterrey serves as a commercial center in the north of the country and is the...

Mexico Rabat
Rabat
Rabat , is the capital and third largest city of the Kingdom of Morocco with a population of approximately 650,000...

Morocco The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

Netherlands
Sarpsborg
Sarpsborg
is a city and municipality in Østfold county, Norway. The administrative centre of the municipality is the city of Sarpsborg.Sarpsborg is part of the fifth largest urban area in Norway when paired with neighbouring Fredrikstad...

Norway Cusco
Cusco
Cusco , often spelled Cuzco , is a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cusco Region as well as the Cuzco Province. In 2007, the city had a population of 358,935 which was triple the figure of 20 years ago...

Peru Częstochowa
Czestochowa
Częstochowa is a city in south Poland on the Warta River with 240,027 inhabitants . It has been situated in the Silesian Voivodeship since 1999, and was previously the capital of Częstochowa Voivodeship...

Poland Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

Portugal Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

Russia Glasgow
Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

Scotland Pretoria
Pretoria
Pretoria is a city located in the northern part of Gauteng Province, South Africa. It is one of the country's three capital cities, serving as the executive and de facto national capital; the others are Cape Town, the legislative capital, and Bloemfontein, the judicial capital.Pretoria is...

South Africa Córdoba
Córdoba, Spain
-History:The first trace of human presence in the area are remains of a Neanderthal Man, dating to c. 32,000 BC. In the 8th century BC, during the ancient Tartessos period, a pre-urban settlement existed. The population gradually learned copper and silver metallurgy...

Spain Leganés
Leganés
Leganés is a city in central Spain. Part of the greater Madrid conurbation - mainly a satellite-city with a population of 186,066 it is located about 11 km southwest of the city centre....

Spain Zaragoza
Zaragoza
Zaragoza , also called Saragossa in English, is the capital city of the Zaragoza Province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain...

Spain Yalvaç
Yalvaç
Yalvaç is a town and district of Isparta Province in the Mediterranean region of Turkey. The population is 20,259 as of 2010.-Twin towns - Sister cities:Yalvaç is twinned with: Bethlehem, Palestinian Authority -External links:*...

Turkey Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi , literally Father of Gazelle, is the capital and the second largest city of the United Arab Emirates in terms of population and the largest of the seven member emirates of the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western...

United Arab Emirates Burlington, Vermont
Burlington, Vermont
Burlington is the largest city in the U.S. state of Vermont and the shire town of Chittenden County. Burlington lies south of the U.S.-Canadian border and some south of Montreal....

 
USA Joplin, Missouri
Joplin, Missouri
Joplin is a city in southern Jasper County and northern Newton County in the southwestern corner of the US state of Missouri. Joplin is the largest city in Jasper County, though it is not the county seat. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 50,150...

 
USA Orlando, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Orlando is a city in the central region of the U.S. state of Florida. It is the county seat of Orange County, and the center of the Greater Orlando metropolitan area. According to the 2010 US Census, the city had a population of 238,300, making Orlando the 79th largest city in the United States...

USA Sacramento, California
Sacramento, California
Sacramento is the capital city of the U.S. state of California and the county seat of Sacramento County. It is located at the confluence of the Sacramento River and the American River in the northern portion of California's expansive Central Valley. With a population of 466,488 at the 2010 census,...

 
USA Għajnsielem Malta

See also

  • Star of Bethlehem
    Star of Bethlehem
    In Christian tradition, the Star of Bethlehem, also called the Christmas Star, revealed the birth of Jesus to the magi, or "wise men", and later led them to Bethlehem. The star appears in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew, where magi "from the east" are inspired by the star to travel to...

  • Bethlehem of Galilee
  • Municipal election in Bethlehem, 2005‎
  • Palestinian Christians
    Palestinian Christians
    Palestinian Christians are Arabic-speaking Christians descended from the people of the geographical area of Palestine. Within Palestine, there are churches and believers from many Christian denominations, including Oriental Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholic , Protestant, and others...

  • Bethlehem University
    Bethlehem University
    Bethlehem University is the first university founded in the West Bank, Palestine. Bethlehem University traces its roots to 1893 when the De La Salle Christian Brothers opened schools in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nazareth, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt....


External links