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Bethlehem

The outstanding reputation of Bethlehem as the Christmas Capital, the place where Jesus was born, is beyond question and there is a good chance that this tiny Palestinian city, just few kilometers south of Jerusalem ranks among the most widely known cities around the globe. Yet beyond the famous Church of the Nativity, the Milk Grotto and the Shepards Fields, Bethlehem has so much more to offer inviting you to explore and discover.

Actractive resources

The Carmelite Convent in Bethlehem

119 Jamal Abdel Nasser St. ? Bethlehem

It was founded by Mariam Baouard ? Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified? also known as the ?Little Arab? , On 20 th of August 1875, ten sisters under her leadership left their mother monastery in Pau, France to start the Carmel in Bethlehem, the town where Jesus Christ was born. The convent located in the southwest part of the city of Bethlehem ,Just outside the old Core. in the same complex is found the church and the Monastery of the fathers of the sacred Heart of Betharam, which was built in 1878 . The convent has a hospice where guests can stay.

Bethlehem Old City

Eastern part of the modern Bethlehem, surrounding the Church of the Nativity

The Church of the Nativity, built in 339 on the highest spot of Bethlehem?s mountain ridge, became a focal point of the town and in a large percent determined shaping of its historic urban centre that emerged in its proximate surrounding. The old core of Bethlehem consists of seven historical quarters: ? Al-Najajreh, the oldest of the town quarters, is located west of Manger Square. It is named after one of the Arab Ghassanid clans that settled in the area. ? Al-Farahiyeh is located along the Star Street. The quarter itself was named after a Patriarch named Farah (joy in Arabic), who was a descendant of the first Christian Arabs. His family migrated from the Wadi Musa area in what is contemporary Jordan and settled in Bethlehem after performing a pilgrimage. ? Al-Tarajmeh (quarter of translators) is the third quarter established in the time of the Crusaders. The quarter was founded by the families formed when the mostly French, Italian, and Spanish men working as translators for the Franciscan friars married Arab women from Bethlehem and the area. ? Al-Anatreh quarter, situated just south of the Church of Nativity, was established during the 400-year Ottoman era. It was begun by a tribe which came from the village of Antar (meaning brave) near Herodium. ? Al-Qawawsa formed by Arab Christian emigrants from the nearby town of Tuqu in the 18 th century. ? Hreizat quarter was established north of Manger Square by a tribe from Um Tuba, a village just south of Jerusalem. ? After making an alliance with the tribes of Bethlehem not to pay taxes to the Ottomans in 1780, clans from the village of Fagur established their own city quarter on a hill west of the city. Their Harat Al-Fawagreh (Fawagreh quarter) was the last historic Bethlehem quarter to be established in the historical city.

Church of the Nativity

Manger Square

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. The structure in a style of a cross is built over a cave that a belief marks as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The original building was commissioned by the Byzantine Empress Helena in the 4th century. However, it was burned in the Samaritan Revolt of 529 AD. Shortly after that, Emperor Justinian (527-565) decided to replace it with more splendid and larger basilica, which can be admired today. The fortress-like exterior appearance and complex fabric of the building are the evidences for its long and turbulent history. The main Basilica of the Nativity is maintained by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. It?s design has typical features of a Byzantine basilica, with five aisles and an apse (a room in a shape of a semicircle) in the eastern end, where the sanctuary is placed. The Grotto of the Nativity, beneath the church, is sacred with an altar and a silver star in its middle that marks the spot where the tradition says Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus. Nowadays, the compound of the Church of the Nativity includes, besides the ancient Basilica, the Latin convent in the north, the Greek convent in the south-east and the Armenian convent in the south-west.

Church of St. Catherine

Manger Square

The Church of St. Catherine is said to be built on the site of Christ?s appearance to St. Catherine of Alexandria and his prediction of her martyrdom (around 310 AD). It was first recorded in the 15th century. This is a Roman Catholic Church, where annually the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem celebrates Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. The modern church has three aisles and is surrounded from north and west by an active Franciscan monastery. Outside the west door of the church is a pleasant cloister, restored in 1948 by A. Barluzzi. He used columns and capitals of the 12th-century monastery. The cloister includes a modern statue of St. Jerome, who spent most of his monastic life in the Grotto of the Nativity.

Milk Grotto

Milk Grotto Street

In the heart of Bethlehem, just around the corner from the Manger Square, is a beautiful chapel of Margaret Sitti Mariam, "Grotto of the Lady Mary", commonly known as "the Milk Grotto". It is said that the grotto was the place where the Holy Family found their shelter during the Slaughter of the Innocents, before they could escape into Egypt. A Byzantine church was built over the grotto in the 5th century. Remnants of a beautiful Byzantine mosaic floor can be found in the courtyard of the present building that was erected around the grotto by the Franciscans in 1872. The grotto's name is derived from the belief, that a drop of Mary's milk fell down onto the ground of the cave and turned it completely white. In fact, the milky white rock covering the grotto's interior has a magical power. For ages, childless woman of many religions have made a pilgrimage to the Milk Grotto, in order to ask for the gift of an offspring.

Al-Madbaseh and Cinema Squares

Al-Madbaseh and Cinema Squares

Al-Madbaseh Square lies on a top of a hill located at the western edge of Bethlehem?s historic centre. In the past, the place was a site of a molasses mill (madbaseh), where Bethlehemites used to come to make dibis (molasses) out of their grape harvest. Nowadays, the area became a part of a marketplace where mostly women from surrounding villages come to sell their seasonal fruits and vegetables. Al-Madbaseh is located next to the Cinema Square, which took its name from a cinema that used to stand there. The cinema was built by Mr. Judah Zarzar in 1955. It was however, shut down after the first Intifada (Palestinian uprising) in 1987, and then in late 90?s it was demolished to create a space for taxi parking. The area is a part of a regular route for visitors to Bethlehem, who enter the historic town from Bab Ez-Zqaq.

Bethlehem University

Bethlehem University Street

During the historic visit of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land in 1964, Palestinians expressed their desire to establish a university in their homeland. Bethlehem University was founded in 1973 with the administrative cooperation of the De La Salle Brothers. Around 100 students were registered at the University when it first opened. Since that time the university expanded and today it serves more than 3000 students. Some of the faculties of Bethlehem University are located in the beautiful Abu Hermas Palace, built towards the end of the Ottoman rule in Palestine, around 1910. The place was built in the type of architecture, which is classified as pre-modern, introduced through European influence. An open U-shaped gallery that links the various rooms at the ground and the superior levels characterizes it. The building was purchased and totally renovated to offer all the advantages of a modern facility in a traditional setting.

Star Street

Star Street leads from the site of King David Wells through the great part of the historic center of Bethlehem and under the Qous ez-Zarrara (sometimes also called the Damascus Gate), towards the Manger Square and the Nativity Church. Most probably, this was the route Joseph and Mary took to approach the Grotto of the Nativity. The same journey is repeated every year during the Christmas celebrations. On December 24 th, January 6 th and January 18 th , patriarchs of various Christian denominations take the Pilgrimage Route to the Church of the Nativity. They are preceded by scout groups and officials to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. Stone residential buildings dating to the 19th and 20th centuries define the route that follows the way that pilgrims travelled to get to the Church of the Nativity. All the houses were built very close to each other in order to facilitate inhabitants? cooperation in case of a need for defence.

Qos Al Zarrara (Zarrara Arch)

Star Street

Qos Al-Zarrara (Zarrara Arch) is located on Star Street, just before a sharp turn leading to the Manger Square. It is assumed to be one of the main gates of Bethlehem?s old core, as it is depicted on many ancient lithographs from the 16 th and 17 th centuries. Old paintings showing Bethlehem call it as the Damascus Gate. A legend says, that this was the place where locals, who rebelled against the Ottoman army, cornered (in Arabic zarru) and fought the soldiers there. Another version of this story says that it was an internal fight between different family clans. Anyhow, Al-Zarrara is a place where someone was trapped or cornered. The arch?s architecture is quite complex. It consists of two cross vaults, whose height permitted a camel with a load to pass under it. Above the arch is a two-storey residential building with a two windows overlooking the street The lintel of the window on the first level is decorated with Mamluk engravings, and the double window on the second level is supported with an arch: a typical local construction method that is constantly repeated in the historic town of Bethlehem.

Mosque of Omar

Manger Square

The elegant Mosque of Omar faces the Church of the Nativity from the opposite corner of the Manger Square. The mosque is the only muslim place of worship located in the historic center of Bethlehem. The building is simpler and less ornate than many mosques across Palestine. It?s interior is open and bright, and it has big windows overlooking the square. The sanctuary is built on the land given in 1860 by the Greek Orthodox Church for construction of a mosque in honor of caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, who in 7th century conquered the Byzantine Empire. At that time, the caliph instituted the Pact of Omar, which allowed individual Muslims to pray at the Church of the Nativity, but not groups. The mosque was originally a very small, modest building, but in 1953 the Jordanian government sponsored renovations. Again in 2004 the Emirati Association reconstructed the mosque after it was destroyed during the Second Intifada.

Syriac Orthodox Church

Pope Paul VI street

Need to get more information. The construction of the church started in 1922 and services started in 1928. The Syrian Orthodox Church has its roots, which go back to the 5th and 6th centuries in Syria major, Asia Minor and Mesopotamia. There has been a permanent Syrian diocese in Jerusalem in 1471. in Bethlehem the first Syrian Christians must have settled approximately around 1838. According to their own traditions, their church was established by the Apostle Peter already in 37 CE (this is recorded in the Acts 11:26). The church traces its first leaders back to Peter. Until today's leader Ignatius Zakka 1 I was, they count 122 real patriarchs (and 14 ones elected by wrong religious bodies), with Peter as the first.

King David Wells

Al Amal Roundabout

King David Wells are located on the property of the Catholic Action Center. The place is situated on a hill, from which a beautiful panoramic view of Bethlehem's Basilica of the Nativity can be seen as well as Herodium in the background. King David Wells are three large cisterns, still in use, located just a few minutes from Manger Square, at the end of Star Street. These wells are associated with the site where David's soldiers broke through the Philistine lines in order to get him water to drink. When they returned to the Cave of Adullam, where David, a native of Bethlehem, and his followers were hiding, the king refused to drink from the water his soldiers had risked their lives to fetch. In 1895 remains of a mosaic from a Byzantine church and an underground monks' cemetery were discovered just beyond the cisterns.

Arab Women Union Museum

Pope Paul VI Street

Arab Women Union Museum, established in 1972, is located in the heart of Bethlehem?s Old City, next to Star Street and a five minute walk from the Basilica of the Nativity. The complex consists of two houses of typical Palestinian architecture, which include a renovated kitchen, a diwan (living room), a bedroom, and an upper floor or illeyeh. The museum displays many folkloric and ethnographic objects: traditional clothing, jewelry, old photographs and personal items. A tour of the museum offers a taste of the gracious refinement Palestinian families enjoyed in the pre-1948 era.

Jabra Ibrahim Jabra Street

Al Najajrah Old quarter

Jabra Ibrahim Jabra 1920-1994 was a Palestinian writer, painter, literary and art critic, and translator. He was born in Bethlehem on August 28th, 1920. He began his studies at the Assyrian school, where he learnt English and Assyrian. Then he continued his education at the Bethlehem National School. At the age of twelve he joined Ar-Rashidiyyah School in Jerusalem, whre he was taught by outstanding teachers such as Abdul-Karim Al-Karmi, Ibrahim Touqan, and Ishaq Mousa Al-Husseini. Upon completing his high school education Jabra joined the Arab College in Jerusalem, which had some of the most outstanding students. He was in charge of the library there. The artist joined Cambridge University in England, from which he received a B.A. in English Literature in 1943 and an M.A. in Literary Criticism in 1948. Jabra passed away in Baghdad on December 12th, 1994. The family of Jabra Ibrahim Jabra used to change their accommodation between multiple houses in the Old City of Bethlehem. One of these houses is located on the street named after the artist.

Visitor Information Center - Bethlehem

Manger Square

VIC is located in next to the Bethlehem?s Municipality in a corner of Manager Square that is adjacent to the Nativity Church. VIC provides free help for the travelers on a wide range of topics to help all visitors make the most of their visit. It can also assist in reservations and bookings of multiple services such as: hotels, transportation, car rentals, guided tours and cultural events. We provide free maps of the main Palestinian cities, as well as a great selection of free promotional materials on multiple destinations, accommodations, attractions and upcoming events. VIC in Bethlehem was established by Franciscan Father Ibrahim Feltas in December 2010, as a project of the John Paul II Foundation to the Middle East in Bethlehem.

The Manger Square

In front of the Nativity Church

Manger Square, located in the center of Bethlehem, is known as an important city square. It takes its name from the ?manger? where Jesus was laid in according to Christian dogma. The Church of the Nativity, Mosque of Omar, Peace Center, and various souvenir shops are located around the square. It is considered as an important cultural and social spot for locals in addition to a meeting point for the town's many pilgrims. Many events throughout the year take place at this square, culminating in Christmas Eve, or eves, since the birth of Jesus is celebrated three times: on December 25th by Catholics, January 7th by the Orthodox, and January 19th by Armenians. Different cultural exhibitions, concerts and gathering are organized at this square. It is also is sometimes used as a car parking place.

Bethlehem Peace Center

Manger Square

Bethlehem Peace Center is a cultural centre that aims to promote and enhance peace, democracy, religious tolerance, and cultural diversity. Its central location in Manger Square makes the Bethlehem Peace Center the natural gravitational point for the citizens of Bethlehem, as well as for the thousands of tourists who pass through Bethlehem every year.

International Nativity Museum

Star Street

International Nativity Museum is located in the complex of the Salesian Convent, on a parallel road to the Star Street. It exhibits a very broad collection of over 200 cribs showing the scene of the Nativity, which were imported to Bethlehem from various parts of the world. The diversity of the exposed cribs shows the variety of customs, liturgy and rituals practised in different countries. The museum is an Italian project, with Italy being a home to the very first sculpted crib in the world, which is the one of Arnolfo di Cambio in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome. The museum is located in the compound of different buildings belonging to the Salesians. The Salesians of Don Bosco came to Bethlehem in 1891, after a call from Fr. Antonio Belloni, a priest of the Latin Patriarchate, who in 1863 founded a ?Catholic Orphanage? for boys. Initially the Salesian school aimed to educate the orphans for professions and created a Technical School. That followed an establishment of Sealestian Artistic Center in 2005. A visitor can observe young artisans creating olive wood, ceramic, and mother of pearl souvenirs. The complex also hosts a bakery.

Palestinian Heritage Center

On the crossroad between Manger Street and Hebron Jerusalem Road, West Bethlehem

The Palestinian Heritage Center, established in 1991 works to promote, revive, and preserve Palestinian cultural heritage, especially the arts of embroidery and traditional dressmaking. Palestinian Heritage Center educates the audience about the meaning and significance of Palestinian cultural heritage and the need to protect this heritage from loss or misappropriation. It provides lectures, workshops, shows, exhibitions, and resources to visitors etc. The Center produces fair trade, handmade embroidery, crafted by women from villages and refugee camps around the city of Bethlehem.

Al-Ein Bethlehem

Old quarters - Bethlehem

Al-Ein Bethlehem, located at the end of the stairs of Qawawsa Quarter, used to be the only spot supplying Bethlehem with water. The water was transported by the aqueducts / canals from the Solomon Pools, ancient water cisterns located in Artas village. The street next to the water point is called ?canal street.?