Explore the awesome town of Bethlehem
The majority of people the world over know of Bethlehem's role in the Christian religion as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. In Judaism, Bethlehem is the site of Rachel's tomb - the place where Jacob's wife Rachel was buried after she died here from giving birth to Benjamin. It is considered to be the third most holy site in Judaism and is a place of pilgrimage. Modern day Bethlehem serves as a hub for the Palestinian cultural and tourism industries and is home to one of the largest Christian Palestinian communities in the Middle East. Bethlehem is part of an agglomeration which includes the surrounding towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.
Not surprisingly, Bethlehem is one of the most visited of Israeli cities. Originally named Ephrath, the town enjoys quite a numerous mention in the bible. Besides being the birthplace of one of the most world-renowned religious figures in the world, it was also the birthplace of David who was the second King of the nation of Israel. The valley to the east of the city is where Ruth the Moabitess gleaned the fields in order to provide for herself and her mother-in-law Naomi after her husband died. One of the biggest attractions in the city is the Church of the Nativity. The building was built under the command of Constantine the Great and stands as the center of the city over the place where Jesus was supposedly born. It is possibly the oldest existing Christian church in the world. The Church has seen a lot of conflict over the years and has been partially destroyed or redecorated more than once. The most recent turbulence to greet it's doors was the Church of the Nativity Siege. Bethlehem is also home to the Bethlehem University, a Roman Catholic institution that was founded by the Vatican.
Recent years has seen Bethlehem in the news quite a few times. The town is surrounded by Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks and the road to the city is cut off at the boarder near Rachel's Tomb. Residents need permits to enter the city and those already living in the area have to abide to certain movement restrictions and curfews. While the town was largely Christian only a short time ago, today it is mostly Muslim. However if you are able to visit this extraordinary and legendary place, your efforts will be richly rewarded.