BETHLEHEM (/ˈbɛθlihɛm/ ; Arabic : بيت لحم _ Bayt
Lahm_ , "House of Meat"; Hebrew : בֵּית לֶחֶם _Bet
Lehem_, , "House of Bread";
Ancient Greek : Βηθλεέμ Greek
pronunciation: ; Latin : _Bethleem_) is a Palestinian city located in
West Bank , Palestine , about 10 km (6.2 miles) south of
Jerusalem . Its population is approximately 25,000 people. It is the
capital of the
Bethlehem Governorate . The economy is primarily
The earliest known mention of the city was in the Amarna
correspondence of 1350–1330 BCE during its habitation by the
Canaanites . The
Hebrew Bible , which says that the city of Bethlehem
was built up as a fortified city by
Rehoboam , identifies it as the
David was from and where he was crowned as the king of
New Testament identifies
Bethlehem as the birthplace of
Bethlehem was destroyed by the Emperor
Hadrian during the
Bar Kokhba revolt ; its rebuilding was promoted by
Empress Helena , mother of
Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great , who commissioned
the building of its great
Church of the Nativity in 327 CE. The church
was badly damaged by the
Samaritans , who sacked it during a revolt in
529, but was rebuilt a century later by Emperor
Justinian I .
Bethlehem became part of
Jund Filastin following the
Muslim rule continued in
Bethlehem until its conquest in 1099
by a crusading army , who replaced the town's Greek Orthodox clergy
with a Latin one. In the mid-13th century, the Mamluks demolished the
city's walls, which were subsequently rebuilt under the Ottomans in
the early 16th century. Control of
Bethlehem passed from the Ottomans
to the British at the end of
World War I
World War I .
Bethlehem came under
Jordanian rule during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and was later captured
Israel in the 1967
Six-Day War . Since the 1995 Oslo Accords ,
Bethlehem has been administered by the
Palestinian Authority .
Bethlehem now has a
Muslim majority, but is still home to a
significant Palestinian Christian community. Bethlehem's chief
economic sector is tourism, which peaks during the
when Christians make pilgrimage to the
Church of the Nativity , as
they have done for almost 2,000 years.
Bethlehem has over 30 hotels
and 300 handicraft workshops. Rachel\'s Tomb , an important Jewish
holy site, is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem.
* 1 History
* 1.1 Canaanite period
* 1.2 Israelite and Judean period
* 1.3 Classical period
* 1.4 Middle Ages
* 1.5 Ottoman era
* 1.6 Modern era
* 1.6.1 Palestinian control
* 2 Geography
* 3 Climate
* 4 Demographics
* 4.1 Population
* 4.2 Christian population
* 6 Religious significance and commemoration
* 6.1 Birthplace of
* 6.3 Other religious festivals
* 7 Culture
* 7.1 Embroidery
* 7.2 Mother-of-pearl carving
* 7.3 Cultural centers and museums
* 8 Local government
* 8.1 Mayors
* 9 Education
* 10 Transportation
Twin towns and sister cities
* 12 See also
* 13 References
* 14 Bibliography
* 15 External links
The earliest reference to
Bethlehem appears in the Amarna
correspondence (c. 1400 BCE). In one of his six letters to Pharaoh,
Abdi-Heba , Egypt's governor for Jerusalem, appeals for aid in
retaking "_Bit-Lahmi_" in the wake of disturbances by Apiru
mercenaries: "now even a town near Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi by name, a
village which once belonged to the king, has fallen to the enemy . . .
Let the king hear the words of your servant Abdi-Heba, and send
archers to restore the imperial lands of the king!"
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 BCE, they
erected a temple to worship the god on the hill now known as the Hill
of the Nativity. The town was known as _Beit Lachama_, meaning "House
of Lachama." The
Philistines later established a garrison there.
William F. Albright notes that 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 , 'House of Meat' in Arabic."
A burial ground discovered in spring 2013, and surveyed in 2015 by a
joint Italian-Palestinian team found that the necropolis covered 3
hectares (more than 7 acres) and originally contained more than 100
tombs in use between roughly 2200 B.C. and 650 B.C. The archaeologists
were able to identify at least 30 tombs.
ISRAELITE AND JUDEAN PERIOD
Archaeological confirmation of
Bethlehem as a city in the Kingdom of
Judah was uncovered in 2012 at the archaeological dig at the City of
David in the form of a _bulla _ (seal impression in dried clay) in
ancient Hebrew script that reads "From the town of
Bethlehem to the
King," indicating that it was used to seal the string closing a
shipment of grain, wine, or other goods sent as a tax payment in the
8th or 7th century BCE.
Biblical scholars believe Bethlehem, located in the "hill country" of
Judah , may be the same as the Biblical
Ephrath , which means
"fertile", as there is a reference to it in the
Book of Micah as
Bethlehem Ephratah. The Bible also calls it Beth-Lehem Judah, and
New Testament describes it as the "City of David". It is first
mentioned in the
Tanakh and the Bible as the place where the matriarch
Rachel died and was buried "by the wayside" (Gen. 48:7). Rachel\'s
Tomb , the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to
Bethlehem. According to the
Book of Ruth , the valley to the east is
where Ruth of
Moab gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi
. It was the home of
Jesse , father of King
Israel , and the
site of David's anointment by the prophet
Samuel . It was from the
Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he
was hiding in the cave of
Writing in the 4th century, the
Pilgrim of Bordeaux reported that the
Ezekiel , Asaph , Job ,
Jesse , and
located near Bethlehem. There has been no corroboration of this.
According to the
New Testament ,
Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Bar Kokhba revolt was crushed,
Hadrian converted the
Christian site above the Grotto into a shrine dedicated to the Greek
Adonis , to honour his favourite, the Greek youth
Some scholars hold the view that this site was one that had originally
been dedicated to Adonis-Tammuz and Christians had taken it over.
In 326–328, the empress Helena , consort of the emperor Constantius
Chlorus , and mother of the emperor
Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great , made a
pilgrimage to Syra-Palaestina, in the course of which she visited the
ruins of Bethlehem. The empress promoted the rebuilding of the city,
Eusebius of Caesarea writes that she was responsible for the
construction of the
Church of the Nativity .
During the Samaritan revolt of 529,
Bethlehem was sacked and its
walls and the
Church of the Nativity destroyed; they were rebuilt on
the orders of the Emperor
Justinian I . In 614, the Persian Sassanid
Empire , supported by Jewish rebels , invaded Palestina Prima and
captured Bethlehem. A story recounted in later sources holds that they
refrained from destroying the church on seeing the magi depicted in
Persian clothing in a mosaic.
1698 sketch by
Cornelis de Bruijn
In 637, shortly after
Jerusalem was captured by the
Muslim armies ,
Umar ibn al-Khattāb , the second Caliph , promised that the Church
of the Nativity would be preserved for Christian use. A mosque
Umar was built upon the place in the city where he
prayed, next to the church.
Bethlehem then passed through the control
of the Islamic caliphates of the Umayyads in the 8th century, then the
Abbasids in the 9th century. A Persian geographer recorded in the
mid-9th century that a well preserved and much venerated church
existed in the town. In 985, the Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi 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 , 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 southern transept.
Bethlehem was captured by the Crusaders , who fortified it
and built a new monastery and cloister on the north side of the Church
of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox 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
1100, Baldwin I , first king of the Frankish Kingdom of
was crowned in Bethlehem, and that year a Latin episcopate was also
established in the town.
Saladin , the Sultan of
Syria who led the Muslim
Ayyubids , 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
Bethlehem suffered from the loss of the pilgrim trade,
as there was a sharp decrease of European pilgrims. William IV, Count
of Nevers 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 in present-day
Burgundy , France. As a
result, the Bishop of
Bethlehem duly took up residence in the hospital
of Panthenor, Clamecy, in 1223. Clamecy remained the continuous 'in
partibus infidelium ' seat of the Bishopric of
Bethlehem for almost
600 years, until the
French Revolution in 1789.
Bethlehem, along with Jerusalem,
Nazareth , and
Sidon , was briefly
ceded to the Crusader Kingdom of
Jerusalem by a treaty between Holy
Roman Emperor Frederick II and Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil 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 Mamluks
under Rukn al-Din
Baibars , tolerance of Christianity declined.
Members of the clergy 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
A painting of
Vasily Polenov , 1882 View of
Christmas Day 1898
From 1517, during the years of Ottoman control, custody of the
Basilica was bitterly disputed between the Catholic and Greek Orthodox
churches . By the end of the 16th century,
Bethlehem 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
Bethlehem among other leaders during this period. The Ottoman tax
record and census from 1596 indicates that
Bethlehem had a population
of 1,435, making it the 13th largest village in Palestine at the time.
Its total revenue amounted to 30,000 akce .
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 than grapes (the former being a more valuable commodity).
From 1831 to 1841, Palestine was under the rule of the Muhammad Ali
Egypt . 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 . In 1841,
Bethlehem came under Ottoman rule once
again and remained so until the end of World War I. Under the
Ottomans, Bethlehem's inhabitants faced unemployment, compulsory
military service , and heavy taxes, resulting in mass emigration,
South America . An American missionary in the 1850s
reported a population of under 4,000, nearly all of whom belonged to
the Greek Church. He also noted that a lack of water crippled the
Socin found from an official Ottoman village list from about 1870
Bethlehem had a population of 179 Muslims in 59 houses, 979
"Latins" in 256 houses, 824 "Greeks" in 213 houses, and 41 Armenians
in 11 houses, a total of 539 houses. The population count included
men, only. Hartmann examining the same list, found that
Bethlehem was administered by the British Mandate from 1920 to 1948.
United Nations General Assembly 's 1947 resolution to partition
Bethlehem was included in the special international
Jerusalem to be administered by the
United Nations .
Jordan captured the city during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War . Many
refugees from areas captured by Israeli forces in 1947–48 fled to
Bethlehem area, primarily settling in what became the official
refugee camps of \
'Azza (Beit Jibrin) and \'Aida in the north and
Dheisheh in the south. The influx of refugees significantly
transformed Bethlehem's Christian majority into a
Jordan retained control of the city until the
Six-Day War in 1967,
Bethlehem was captured by Israel, along with the rest of the West
Bank . Following the Six-Day War,
Israel took control of the city. In
Israel turned it over to the
Palestinian National Authority in
accordance with the Oslo peace accord . Israeli soldiers in
Today, the city is surrounded by two bypass roads for settlers,
leaving the inhabitants squeezed between 37 Jewish enclaves, where a
quarter of all
West Bank settlers, roughly 170,000, live, and the gap
between the two roads closed by the 8-metre high Israeli West Bank
barrier , which cuts
Bethlehem off from its sister city Jerusalem.
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 in conformance
with the Interim Agreement on the
West Bank and the
Gaza Strip in
1995. During the Second Palestinian Intifada in 2000–2005,
Bethlehem's infrastructure and tourism industry were damaged. In
2002, it was a primary combat zone in
Operation Defensive Shield , a
major military counteroffensive by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
During the counteroffensive, the IDF besieged the Church of the
Nativity , where dozens of Palestinian militants had sought refuge.
The siege lasted for 39 days. Several militants were killed. It ended
with an agreement to exile 13 of the wanted militants to various
Residence of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of
Betharram , 2008
Bethlehem is located at an elevation of about 775 meters (2,543 ft)
above sea level , 30 meters (98 ft) higher than nearby
Bethlehem is situated on the southern portion in the Judean Mountains
The city is located 73 kilometers (45 mi) northeast of
Gaza City and
Mediterranean Sea , 75 kilometers (47 mi) west of
59 kilometers (37 mi) southeast of
Tel Aviv ,
Israel and 10 kilometers
(6.2 mi) south of Jerusalem. Nearby cities and towns include Beit
Jerusalem to the north,
Beit Jala to the northwest, Husan
to the west, al-Khadr and Artas to the southwest, and
Beit Sahour to
Beit Jala and the latter form an agglomeration with
Bethlehem. The Aida and Azza refugee camps are located within the 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
Manger Square. The quarters include the Christian an-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 clans that settled there.
Al-Qawawsa Quarter was formed by Arab Christian emigrants from the
nearby town of Tuqu\' in the 18th century. There is also a Syriac
quarter outside of the old city, whose inhabitants originate from
Midyat and Ma'asarte in
Turkey . The total population of the old city
is about 5,000.
Bethlehem has a
Mediterranean climate , with hot and dry summers and
mild, wetter winters. Winter temperatures (mid-December to mid-March)
can be cool 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 30 degrees Celsius (86 °F).
Bethlehem receives an
average of 700 millimeters (28 in) of rainfall annually, 70% between
November and January.
Bethlehem's average annual relative humidity 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 ,
during April, May and mid-June.
CLIMATE DATA FOR BETHLEHEM
AVERAGE HIGH °C (°F)
AVERAGE LOW °C (°F)
AVERAGE RAINY DAYS
AVERAGE SNOWY DAYS
The Mosque of Omar (Umar) , built in 1860 to commemorate the
Umar 's visit to
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 by the mid-16th century. However, there
Muslim inhabitants counted 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 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 , 300
were Muslims 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.
An 1885 source put the population at approximately 6,000 of
"principally Christians, Latins and Greeks" with no Jewish
In 1948, the religious makeup of the city was 85% Christian, mostly
of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations, and 13%
Muslim. In the 1967 census taken by
Israel authorities, the town of
Bethlehem proper numbered 14,439 inhabitants, its 7,790 Muslim
inhabitants represented 53.9% of the population, while the Christians
of various denominations numbered 6,231 or 46.1%.
In the PCBS's 1997 census, the city had a population of 21,670,
including a total of 6,570 refugees , 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. In the
2007 PCBS census,
Bethlehem had 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.
Muslim conquest of the Levant in the 630s, the local
Christians were Arabized as well even though large numbers were
Arabs of the Ghassanid clans. Bethlehem's two largest Arab
Christian clans trace their ancestry to the Ghassanids, including
al-Farahiyyah and an-Najajreh. The former have descended from the
Ghassanids who migrated from
Yemen and from the
Wadi Musa area in
Jordan and an-Najajreh descend from
Najran . Another
Bethlehem clan, al-Anatreh, also trace their ancestry to the
Bethlehem Christian women, 1911
The percentage of Christians in the town has been steadily declining
over the years, primarily due to emigration. The lower birth rate of
Christians also accounts for some of the decline. In 1947, Christians
made up 85% of the population, but by 1998 the figure had declined to
40%. In 2005, the mayor of Bethlehem,
Victor Batarseh explained 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." The
Palestinian Authority is officially
committed to equality for Christians, although there have been
incidents of violence against them by the Preventive Security Service
and militant factions. The only mosque in the Old City is the Mosque
of Omar , located in the
The outbreak of the
Second Intifada and the resulting decrease in
tourism also affected the Christian minority, since they are the
owners of many
Bethlehem hotels and services that cater to foreign
tourists. A statistical analysis of the Christian exodus cited lack
of economic and educational opportunity, especially due to the
Christians' middle-class status and higher education . Since the
Second Intifada, 10% of the Christian population have left the city.
In 2006, the Palestinian Centre for Research and Cultural Dialogue
conducted a poll among the city's Christians according to which 90%
said they had had
Muslim friends, 73.3% agreed that the PNA treated
Christian heritage in the city with respect and 78% attributed the
exodus of Christians to the Israeli blockade. However, it is likely
that there are many factors, most of which are shared with the
Palestinian population as a whole.
Church of the Nativity
Shopping is a major attraction, especially during the Christmas
season. The city's main streets and old markets are lined with shops
Palestinian handicrafts , Middle Eastern spices, jewelry and
oriental sweets such as baklawa . Olive wood carvings are the item
most purchased by tourists visiting Bethlehem. Religious handicrafts
include ornaments handmade from mother-of-pearl , as well as olive
wood statues, boxes, and crosses. Other industries include stone and
marble-cutting, textiles, furniture and furnishings. Bethlehem
factories also produce paints, plastics, synthetic rubber ,
pharmaceuticals, construction materials and food products, mainly
pasta and confectionery.
Cremisan Wine , founded in 1885, is a winery run by monks in the
Monastery of Cremisan. The grapes are grown mainly in the al-Khader
district. In 2007, the monastery's wine production was around 700,000
liters per year.
Bethlehem hosted the largest economic conference to date in
Palestinian territories . It was initiated by Palestinian Prime
Minister and former Finance Minister
Salam Fayyad to convince more
than a thousand businessmen, bankers and government officials from
Middle East to invest in the
West Bank and
Gaza Strip .
A total of 1.4 billion US dollars was secured for business investments
in the Palestinian territories.
Pope Francis in Bethlehem, 25 May 2014
Tourism is Bethlehem's main industry. Unlike other Palestinian
localities prior to 2000, the majority of the employed residents did
not have jobs in Israel. More than 20% of the working population is
employed in the industry.
Tourism accounts for approximately 65% of
the city's economy and 11% of the
Palestinian National Authority .
The city has more than two million visitors every year.
Church of the Nativity is one of Bethlehem's major tourist
attractions and a magnet for Christian pilgrims. It stands in the
center of the city — a part of the
Manger Square — over a grotto
or cave called the Holy Crypt, where
Jesus is believed to have been
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.
thirty years creating the
Vulgate , the dominant Latin version of the
Bible until the Reformation.
There are over thirty hotels in Bethlehem.
Jacir Palace , 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 Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, but reopened in 2005 as the
Jacir Palace InterContinental at
RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE AND COMMEMORATION
BIRTHPLACE OF JESUS
Church of the Nativity and Nativity of
Silver star marking the place where
Jesus was born according to
Early Christian traditions describe
Jesus as being born in Bethlehem:
in one, a verse in the
Book of Micah is interpreted as a prophecy that
Messiah would be born there. The
New Testament has two different
accounts of the birth. In the
Gospel of Luke ,
Jesus ' parents live in
Nazareth and travel for the
Census of Quirinius to Bethlehem, where
Jesus is born, after which they return home. The Gospel of Matthew
Bethlehem but not the census. Told that a 'King of the Jews'
has been born in the town, Herod orders the killing of all the boys
aged two and under in the town and surrounding area. Joseph , warned
of by an angel of the Lord , flees to
Egypt with his family; the Holy
Family later settles in Nazareth. Catholic procession on
Christmas Eve , 2006
Christmas tree in Bethlehem, behind it
Church of the Nativity , 2014
Many modern scholars question the idea that
Jesus was born in
Bethlehem, seeing the biblical stories not as historical accounts but
as symbolic narratives invented to present the birth as fulfillment of
prophecy and imply a connection to the lineage of King David. The
Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John do not include a nativity
narrative, but refer to him only as being from Nazareth. In a 2005
article in _Archaeology _ magazine, archaeologist Aviram Oshri points
to an absence of evidence for the settlement of
Jerusalem at the time when
Jesus was born, and postulates that Jesus
was born in
Bethlehem of Galilee . In a 2011 article in _Biblical
Archaeology Review _ magazine,
Jerome Murphy-O\'Connor argues for the
traditional position that
Jesus was born in
Bethlehem near Jerusalem.
The existence of early traditions of Jesus' birth in
attested by the Christian apologist
Justin Martyr , who stated in his
Dialogue with Trypho _ (c. 155–161) that the
Holy Family had taken
refuge in a cave outside of the town.
Origen of Alexandria, writing
around the year 247, referred to a cave in the town of
local people believed was the birthplace of Jesus. This cave was
possibly one which had previously been a site of the cult of Tammuz .
Christmas pilgrims, 1890
Christmas rites are held in
Bethlehem on three different dates:
December 25 is the traditional date by the Roman Catholic and
Protestant denominations, but Greek, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox
Christmas on January 6 and Armenian Orthodox
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 and
Protestants often hold services at Shepherds' Fields.
OTHER RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS
Bethlehem celebrates festivals related to saints and prophets
associated with Palestinian folklore. One such festival is the annual
Feast of Saint George (al-Khadr ) on 5–6 May. During the
celebrations, Greek Orthodox Christians from the city march in
procession to the nearby town of al-Khader to baptize newborns in the
waters around the Monastery of St. George 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.
Palestinian costumes Woman in traditional Bethlehem
The women embroiderers of
Bethlehem were known for their bridalwear.
Bethlehem embroidery was renowned for its "strong overall effect of
colors and metallic brilliance." Less formal dresses were made of
indigo fabric with a sleeveless coat (_bisht_) from locally woven wool
worn over top. Dresses for special occasions were made of striped silk
with winged sleeves with a short _taqsireh_ jacket known as the
Bethlehem jacket. The taqsireh was made of velvet or broadcloth ,
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 dresses (_thob malak_),
taqsirehs and the _shatwehs_ worn by married women. It has been traced
by some to
Byzantium , and by others to the formal costumes of the
Ottoman Empire's elite. As a Christian village, local women were also
exposed to the detailing on church vestments with their heavy
embroidery and silver brocade.
The art of mother-of-pearl carving is said to have been a Bethlehem
tradition since the 15th century when it was introduced by Franciscan
Italy . A constant stream of pilgrims generated a demand
for these items, which also provided jobs for women. The industry was
Richard Pococke , who visited
Bethlehem in 1727.
CULTURAL CENTERS AND MUSEUMS
Craftsmen working with mother-of-pearl , early 20th century
Bethlehem is home to the
Palestinian Heritage Center , established in
1991. The center aims to preserve and promote Palestinian embroidery,
art 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 displays, and training.
Bethlehem branch of the Edward Said National Conservatory of
Music 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: 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.
Badd Giacaman Museum , 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 production.
Baituna al-Talhami Museum ,
established in 1972, contains displays of
Bethlehem culture. The
International Museum of Nativity was built by United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to exhibit
"high artistic quality in an evocative atmosphere".
Hamas rally in
Bethlehem is the _muhfaza_ (seat) or district capital of the
Bethlehem Governorate .
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 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 Bedouins and Palestinian refugees, hence ratifying the number
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.
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
There are several branches of political parties on the council,
including Communist , Islamist , and secular. The leftist factions of
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) such as the Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Palestinian People\'s
Party (PPP) usually dominate the reserved seats.
Hamas gained the
majority of the open seats in the 2005 Palestinian municipal elections
The mayor and the deputy mayor of
Bethlehem are required by municipal
law to be Christian. In the October 2012 municipal elections, Fatah
Vera Baboun won, becoming the first female mayor of Bethlehem.
* 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 – 1946–51
Elias Bandak – 1951–53
* Afif Salm Batarseh – 1952–53
Elias Bandak – 1953–57
Ayyub Musallam – 1958–62
Elias Bandak – 1963–72
Elias Freij – 1972–97
Hanna Nasser – 1997–2005
Victor Batarseh 2005–2012
Vera Baboun – 2012–Present
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of
Statistics (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 , 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 in 2006; 100 run
the Education Ministry of the
Palestinian National Authority , seven
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and 28 were
Bethlehem is home to
Bethlehem University , 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
opened schools throughout Palestine and Egypt.
A street in
Bethlehem has three bus stations owned by private companies which
offer service to Jerusalem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour,
Battir , al-Khader , al-Ubeidiya and
Beit Fajjar . There are two taxi
stations that make trips to Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, Jerusalem, Tuqu\'
Herodium . 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.
The Israeli construction of the
West Bank barrier has affected
Bethlehem politically, socially, and economically. The barrier is
located along the northern side of the town's built-up area, within m
of houses in 'Aida refugee camp 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 are currently
subjected to Israeli checkpoints 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. Palestinians require a permit to enter the Jewish
holy site of Rachel\'s Tomb . Israeli citizens are barred from
Bethlehem and the nearby biblical Solomon\'s Pools .
TWIN TOWNS AND SISTER CITIES
This section NEEDS ADDITIONAL CITATIONS FOR VERIFICATION . Please
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Bethlehem is twinned with:
* _ Marrickville ,
* Natal ,
São Pedro do Butiá ,
Estonia (since 2010)_
Italy (since 2000)_
* Pratovecchio ,
* Sant\'Anastasia ,
The Hague ,
Saint Petersburg ,
Belgium (since 2012)_
Abu Dhabi ,
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
Burlington, Vermont , USA
Orlando, Florida , USA
Sacramento, California , USA (since 2009)_
* Palestine portal
* Bethlehem, Wales
Massacre of the Innocents
Star of Bethlehem
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