Bethlehem or nearby:
- Church of the Nativity
This is the oldest church in the Holy Land still in use. The original
church was constructed under the patronage of Constantine’s mother,
Helena, who came on a pilgrimage to Palestine in 325 AD to investigate
the sites associated with the life of Jesus Christ which had been
revered since the early days of Christianity. Helena chose to the Grotto
of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, as the site for
the huge basilica which was completed in 339 AD.
Inside the Church, two sets of stairs on either side of the altar
lead down into the Grotto, the site where Jesus was born. A
silver star embedded in white marble and bearing the Latin
inscription “Here of the Virgin Mary Christ was born” marks the site.
- 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.
- Manger Square
This vast esplanade between the Mosque of Omar and the Church of the
Nativity constitutes the tourist centre of Bethlehem. The square as
well as much of the Old city underwent renovation from 1998 to 2000.
Many events throughout the year take place here, culminating in
Christmas Eve, or eves, since the birth of Jesus is celebrated three
times: on December 25 by Catholics, January 7 by the Orthodox, and
January 19 by Armenians. There are frequent cultural exhibitions,
concerts and conferences at the Bethlehem Peace Centre
at the square (Tel: 02-276 6677 ww.peacecenter.org) and at the nearby
International Centre of Bethlehem (www.annadwa.org, Tel: 02-2770047)
just off the square, housing the Al-Kahf Gallery and the Dar Annadwa
Arts & Crafts Centre (open daily except Sunday 9:30-19:00) which
are well worth a visit.
The Tourism Office (Tel:
02-276 6677) and a bookshop (most books in English) also selling some
souvenirs are on the ground floor of the peace centre.
- Shepherds Field
It is located in the town of Beit Sahour 2km 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”.
- St. Theodosius Monastery
(Greek Orthodox) Built by Theodosius in 500 AD, the monastery is
located east of the historic village of Ubediyyeh12km 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.
- St. Saba Monastery
A drive of about 6 kilometers east of Shepherd’s Field down a winding
road takes you to the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Mar Saba. Built into
a cliff, it has a spectacular view overlooking the gorge of the
Kidron Valley and was part of the grand tour of Palestine during the
19th century. The founder, St. Saba, came from Cappadocia in the fifth
century. There are legends about St. Saba having lived in a cave with a
lion for many years. St. Saba died at age 94, and his corpse is still
preserved in the Church at the monastery. The monastery has 110
rooms, though today there are only a few monks residing in it. The
monks are friendly and hospitable, but long-established tradition
prevents the entry of women, who must enjoy the scenery from outside.
Built in a circular shape on top of a hill 6km southeast of
Bethlehem, this fortress includes the remains of a huge palace built by
King Herod for his wife in 37 BC. The palace contained luxurious,
round walled buildings, fortified chambers, and baths and terraced
gardens.Fort Herodion hill dominates the landscape and offers an
impressive view of theDead Sea.
- Rachel’s Tomb – Belal’s Mosque
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 the northern entrance of
- Solomon’s Pools
Hidden among very tall pine trees in a small valley 4km 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.
- St. George’s Church– Al-Khader
Every year on May 5, there is a pilgrimage to theal-Khader Church,
which was built in 1600 AD and rebuilt in 1912. The pilgrimage is in
honor of Saint George (in Arabic al-Khader), the soldier monk who slew
the dragon; he is venerated for being able to ward off the evil eye.
Islamic tradition has it that he left his native Lydda, where he was
born, and settled here in this village which bears his name. Muslims and
Christians come together annually on this day to celebrate their
common protector, to whom many different blessings are attributed.
Saint George is also the patron saint of farmers, travelers and the
mentally sick. According to a popular belief, lunatics were chained to a
ring in the walls of the courtyard here in order for them to be
delivered from their insanity due to the intervention of Saint George.
(Jerusalem-Hebron Road, al-Khader
Gate; Tel: 02-274 3233, daily8:00-12:00 and 15:00-19:00. Free entry).
- Beit Jala
Approximately two kilometers west of Bethlehem is Beit Jala, a town
set among olive groves and vineyards with stunning stone masonry and a
spectacular view of Jerusalem. The town’s unique location and moderate
weather make it a popular summer destination for visitors in search of
a clean, peaceful environment and beautiful scenery. In recent year,
Beit Jala has become well known for its modern hotels and good
restaurants, which offer a variety of food to please different tastes.
Olive oil is one of the town’s main products. It has a unique taste
characteristic of the trees in the area. One of the most important
sights in Beit Jala is the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, established
in 1925 and named for the patron saint of Beit Jala.
- Beit Sahour
Beit Sahour is located southeast of Bethlehem. It is the scene of the
fields of olives, well-known as Shepherd’s Field, the place where the
angel announced to the shepherds the birth of Jesus Christ. There are
two points of interest here: a Franciscan chapel, and a Greek Orthodox
church that was built over a cave in the fifth century. There also
are some exceptionally old olive trees in the field. While in the
town, be sure to ask about theBeit Sahour Municipality Folklore
- Tomb of Moses/ Maqam an Nabi Musa
This Muslim monument to Moses is originally thought to have been built
as a site to view the traditional burial spot of Moses on Mount Nebo
from Jericho. However, local Palestinian Muslim folklore later on
attributed the site in Jericho as the actual resting place of Moses
who's remains were brought across the Jordan River from Mount Nebo by
Salahaddin during the Crusades. The complex is open to the public and
contains a coffin decorated in colourful carpets that is said to hold
the remains of Moses. Local Bedouins call the rocks surrounding the
complex Moses rocks (Arabic: احجار موسى, ihjar Mousa)
and make them into protective amulets to sell to visitors.
- Mountain of Temptation.
Hike up to or take the cable car up to the mountain believed to be the
site where Jesus was tempted by the devil. On the top of the mountain
is an ancient Greek Orthodox Monastery.
- Jesus' Baptismal site/ Qasr al Yahoud.
Located nearby Jericho on the Jordan River is the site where Jesus was
baptised by John in the Jordan River(this site in Jericho is
recognized as the authentic site as opposed to the fake, touristy one
set up in Northern Israel at Yardenit). It is also believed to be the
spot described in the Old Testament where the Israelites crossed the
river to enter the Land of Canaan.
- Monastery of St. Gerasimus of the Jordan (Deir Hajla) (Southeast of Jericho,
along road #90).
The Greek Orthodox monastery of Deir Hajla near Jericho commemorates
St. Gerasimus, whose lavra was nearby. Gerasimus left his family wealth
and worldly affairs to become a monk. He departed for the region
Thebaid in the Egyptian desert, later again returning to his native
Lycia. About the middle of 5th century Saint Gerasimus went to
Palestine and settled in wilderness near the Jordan River. There he
established a monastery and became known for his righteous life of
asceticism and prayer. The story of Gerasimus and the lion, when the
saint tamed the animal by removing a thorn from its paw and taught it
obedience, became widely known in the Christian world. He is reputed to
have attended to the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451.The
history of the monastery is also linked to another Christian
narrative. Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus were said to have found
refuge in a cave here during their flight from Herod. An underground
chapel was built on the spot where the Holy Family is believed to have
spent the night. The crypt floor also contains the bones of monks who
were massacred during the Persian conquest of the Holy Land.
sources: OrthodoxWiki, Wikipedia, "Sacred Destinations"and
- Sycamore Tree of Jericho
This tree is referenced in the Bible due to it's association with
Jesus' visit to Jericho: "Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through
it. Now a man named Zacchaeus was there; he was a chief tax collector
and was rich. He was trying to get a look at Jesus, but being a short
man he could not see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up
into a sycamore tree to see him, because Jesus was going to pass that
way" (Luke 19:1-4, NET Bible).
|Monastery of St. Gerasimus of the Jordan