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Place to Visit


As the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the charming town of Bethlehem has a sweeter meaning to Christians than any other place on earth. Its origins are lost in history. Being the birthplace of Christ has thrust this small, rose-coloured city onto a world stage. Modern Bethlehem is a major tourist attraction with all the accompanying commercialism that this implies. Bethlehem's real charm can be found in the side streets away from the square and pilgrim sites. The town and souq are a heady mix of ancient and modern, Muslim and Christian.

• Basilica of the Nativity • Grotto of the Nativity
• Milk Grotto • Mosque of Omar
• Masjid Bilal (Rachel's Tomb) • David's Wells
• Shepherds' Field • Herodion
• Solomon's Pool • Mar Elias Monastery
• St. Theodosius Monastery • Mar Saba
• Artas • Beit Jala
• Al-Khader  

• Basilica of the Nativity

When Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem, they could not find room in the inn and so Jesus was born in a cave that was used as a stable. Above the cave was built a magnificent church - The Basilica of the Nativity. The first Church was built in the first half of the fourth century A.D. by the Byzantine Emperor. The present church was built in 530 A.D. It looks like a fortress from the exterior. The entrance is low and narrow in order to protect it from invaders and prevent them from entering on horseback.

Opening hours:
Mon - Sun 6:00 - 18:00

• Grotto of the Nativity

2 sets of stairs on either side of the altar in the Church of the Nativity lead down into the Grotto, the site where Jesus is said to have been born. A fourteen pointed silver star embedded in white marble marks the exact spot with the inscription: Hic de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est - Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary. Of the fifteen lamps burning around the recess, six belong to the Greeks, 5 to the Armenians and four to the Latins.

Opening Hours:
Mon - Sun 6:00 - 18:00

• Milk Grotto

According to tradition, the Milk Grotto is where Mother Mary nursed baby Jesus while hiding there from Herod's soldiers before going to Egypt. Located southeast of the Basilica, it is an irregular Grotto hewn out of soft white rock. It is believed that some drops of Mary's milk trickled, turning the rock white. Revered by Christians and Muslims alike, the milk-white rock is famous for its healing powers and reputed ability of making nursing easier for women.

Opening Hours:
Mon - Sun 8:00 - 13:00 / 14:00 - 16:30

• Mosque of Omar

In 638 AD Omar ibn Al-Khattab visited Bethlehem as an envoy of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). He prayed where the Mosque that carries his name now stands.

The existing Mosque was built in 1860 and was last renovated in 1954. The Mosque is a symbol of religious co-existence in Bethlehem.

It was built on lands donated by the Greek Orthodox Church to the Muslims, and it is the only Muslim shrine of worship in the Old City of Bethlehem.

• Masjid Bilal (Rachel's Tomb)

This small building marks the traditional Tomb of Rachel, Jacob's wife. It is considered holy to Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The present sanctuary and mosque were built during the Ottoman period and are situated on the Jerusalem- Hebron Road near Bethlehem's northern entrance.

• David's Wells  

Located north of Bethlehem, David's wells mark the site where David's men broke through a Philistine garrison to bring him water.

Opening Hours:
Mon - Sun 8:00 - 17:00

• Shepherds' Field

It is located in the town of Beit Sahour 2 km east of Bethlehem. This is the site where the angel of the Lord appeared before the shepherds bringing them the good tidings of the birth of Jesus, joined with a multitude of heavenly hosts, who sang " Glory to God in the Highest and on Earth, Peace among men".

Opening Hours:
Mon - Sun 8:00 - 11:30 / 14 - 17:00

• Herodion

The remains of the fortified palace Herod the Great built on a hill top 6 km south east of Bethlehem dominate the countryside and offer views of the Dead Sea. A lavish and luxurious place in its day, a city of round walls and a fort enclosing apartments, baths and a garden. The ruins of a large pool and extensive administrative buildings are at the foot of the hill.

• Solomon's Pool

Hidden among very tall pine trees in a small valley 4-km south of Bethlehem, Solomon's Pools consist of three huge rectangular reservoirs of stone and masonry that can hold 160,000 cubic meters of water. Although tradition attributes these to King Solomon, the pools almost certainly date from the time of Herod, and may have been conceived by Pontius Pilate. In the past, the reservoirs collected spring and rainwater and pumped it to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Qalat al-Burak, an Ottoman fortress dating back to the 17th century is located near the pools. The fortress was built to protect Solomon's Pools water source.

• Mar Elias Monastery

The Monastery stands like a fortress on a hill from which both Jerusalem and Bethlehem can be seen. It was founded in the 6th century A.D. and was rebuilt by the Emperor Manual Communes in 1160. Legend has it that the building stands on the site where Elias rested on his flight from the Vengeance of Jezebel. From the monastery, Bethlehem can be seen to the south, Herodion to the southeast and sometimes the Dead Sea across the valley to the east.

Opening Hours:
Mon - Sun 8:00 - 11:00 / 13:30 - 17:00

• St. Theodosius Monastery

village of Ubediyyeh 12 km east of Bethlehem. A white-walled cave marks the burial site of St. Theodosius. Tradition has it that the wise men rested here after God warned them in a dream that they should not return to Herod.

Opening Hours:
Mon - Sun 8:00 - 12:00 / 13:30 - 17:00

• Mar Saba

Built into the rock overlooking the Kidron Valley, 15km east of Bethlehem , this magnificent monastery is a spectacular sight when it first comes into view. It preserves a way of life unchanged since the time of Constantine, and maintains a tradition of not allowing women to enter. The monastery was founded by St. Saba (439- 532), the great monastic leader of the Byzantine period.

• Artas

It is located in a fertile valley south of Bethlehem. The name Artas is derived from the Latin word Hortus meaning Paradise. The ruins include a Crusader convent, the foundations of a Crusader church, an Arab fortress as well as several Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, and Crusader ruins. Artas has a breathtaking view of the spectacular Convent of Hortus Conclusus (closed garden) and the surrounding hills and terraced green fields.

• Beit Jala

This quaint town 2 km west of Bethlehem is an old Canaanite city whose name in Aramaic means, 'grass carpet'. It is the home of two theological seminaries and several old churches and convents. The Church of St. Nicholas, with its square tower and glittering dome, is the most famous. The Salesian Monastery of Cremisan, housing a school and a library, is reputed for its excellent wine. Beit Jala is distinguished for its first- rate olive oil. The town's pleasant weather and attractive scenery make it a popular summer resort.

• Beit Sahur

This historic town, whose name means "shepherd's village", lies 2-3km east of Bethlehem. In the past, the Canaanites inhabited its numerous caves and today it is the home of many churches and convents. The Shepherd's Field, the Field of Ruth and Boaz and the Well of the Lady are all located in Beit Sahour.

• Al-Khader  

It is a little town surrounded by vineyards, fig and olive trees and marked by the Greek Orthodox monastery of St George first established in 1600 AD, a popular site of pilgrimage. Al-Khader or St. George is one of the saints who is attributed with healing patients and protection; hence, a sculpture of St. George killing the dragon decorates the facade of many Christian houses in the area

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