Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the approximately 8 km south of Jerusalem. The city is a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism in the country.
Bethlehem is one of the oldest cities, and its Biblical history runs very deep. It is known around the world as the birth place of Jesus Christ. It is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. And it has been a major site of Christian pilgrimage since the construction of the Church of the Nativity in the 4th century AD. The architecture designs follows very closely to its origin with narrow streets and beautiful white stone buildings.
For hundreds of years pilgrims have visited the Holy Sites in the Bethlehem district, including the Nativity Church,Shepherd’s Fields, and the Milk Grotto. Since the founding of the city, the residents of Bethlehem have created handicrafts such as olive wood and mother-of-pearl carving and embroidery for pilgrims to buy as mementos of their travels. These traditions are still a vibrant and viable part of the Bethlehem economy.
Since the conflict in 2002, the Bethlehem district has struggled to regain a sense of autonomy and security from the occupation, while maintaining its warm traditions of hospitality, handicrafts culture and religious history. Many people are concerned that it is too dangerous to visit, however the West Bank is extremely safe for travelers. Palestinians are warm and welcoming to all visitors. In all towns and many villages, you will find people who speak your language and will insist that you join them for coffee before giving you the directions you need. While the situation is fluid in Bethlehem, both Christian and Muslim Palestinians in the West Bank work together and rely on tourist visits to the Holy Land to sustain their families and communities.
For more information on visiting Bethlehem, see these sites:
*Information retrieved from Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans.