Bethlehem Travel Blog› entry 8 of 15 › view all entries
OMG i had the best falafal balls in my life.......
Bethlehem, is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank, approximately 10 kilometers (6 mi) south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism.
According to the New Testament, Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The town is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, though the size of the community has shrunk in recent years due to emigration. The city is also believed to be the birthplace of David and the location where he was crowned as the king of Israel.
The Ottomans lost the city to the British during World War I and it was to be included in an international zone under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Jordan occupied the city in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and it was subsequently occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
Modern Bethlehem has a Muslim majority but is also home to one of the largest Palestinian Christian communities. The Bethlehem agglomeration includes the towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, as well as the refugee camps of 'Aida and Azza. Bethlehem's dominant economic sector is tourism which is particularly high during the Christmas season as the city is a Christian pilgrimage center, being home of the Church of the Nativity. Bethlehem has over thirty hotels and three hundred handicraft work shops, employing several of the city's residents.Rachel's Tomb, an important Jewish holy site, is located at the entrance of Bethlehem.
Shopping and industry
Shopping is a major sector in Bethlehem, especially during the Christmas season.
The tradition of making handicrafts in the city dates back to its founding. Numerous shops in Bethlehem sell olive wood carvings �" 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, as well as olive wood statues, boxes, and crosses. The art of creating mother-of-pearl handicrafts was introduced to Bethlehem by Franciscan friars from Damascus during the 14th century. Stone and marble-cutting, textiles, furniture and furnishings are other prevalent industries.
Bethlehem has a wine-producing company, Cremisan Wine, 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 area. The monastery's wine production is around 700,000 liters per year.
Tourism is Bethlehem's primary 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.
The 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 was born. Nearby is the Milk Grotto where Jerome spent thirty years translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Latin.
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 violence of the Second Intifada, but reopened in 2005.
Bethlehem hosted the largest ever economic conference in the Palestinian territories on May 21, 2008.
Before the establishment of Israel as a state, Bethlehem costumes and embroidery were popular in villages throughout the Judaean Hills and the coastal plain. The women embroiderers of Bethlehem and the neighboring villages of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour were known to be professional producers of wedding costumes.
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 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 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.
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, 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 the culture of Bethlehem's inhabitants. The International Museum of Nativity was designed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the purpose of showing works of "high artistic quality in an evocative atmosphere".
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.
A branch of the the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music is located in Bethlehem and 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.
Christmas rites are held in Bethlehem on three different dates: December 24 is the traditional date by the Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations, but Greek, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Christians celebrate 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. Catholic services take place in St. Catherine's Church and Protestants often hold services at Shepherds' Fields.