] which means "fertile": There is a possible reference to it as Beth-Lehem Ephratah.  It is first mentioned in the Tanakh and the Bible as the place where the Abrahamic matriarch
Racheldied and was buried "by the wayside" (Gen. 48:7). Rachel's Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem. According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moabgleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. Bethlehem is the traditional birthplace of David, the second king of Israel, and the place where he was anointed king by Samuel.  [Geza Vermes, "The Nativity: History and Legend", London, Penguin, 2006, page 64.] Matthew reports that Herod the Great, told that a 'King of the Jews' has been born in Bethlehem, ordered the killing of all the children aged two and under in the town and surrounding areas. Jesus's earthly father Joseph is warned of this in a dream, and the family escapes this fate by fleeing to Egypt and returning only after Herod has died. But being warned in another dream not to return to Judea, Joseph withdraws the family to Galilee, and goes to live in Nazareth
Early Christians interpreted a verse in the
Book of Micah
In 1099, Bethlehem was captured by the Crusaders, who fortified it and built a new monastery and cloister on the north side of the Church of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox clergy were removed from their Sees and replaced with Latin clerics. Up until that point the official Christian presence in the region was Greek Orthodox. On Christmas Day 1100 Baldwin I, first king of the Frankish
Kingdom of Jerusalem, was crowned in Bethlehem, and that year a Latin episcopate was also established in the town.
Saladin, the Sultan of Egyptand Syriawho led the Muslim Ayyubids, captured Bethlehem from the Crusaders. The Latin clerics were forced to leave, allowing the Greek Orthodox clergy to return. Saladin agreed to the return of two Latin priests and two deacons in 1192. However, Bethlehem suffered from the loss of the pilgrim trade, as there was a sharp decrease of European pilgrims. William IV, Count of Nevershad promised the Christian bishops of Bethlehem that if Bethlehem should fall under Muslim control, he would welcome them in the small town of Clamecy in present-day Burgundy, France. As such, The Bishop of Bethlehem duly took up residence in the hospital of Panthenor, Clamecy in 1223. Clamecy remained the continuous ' in partibus infidelium' seat of the Bishopric of Bethlehem for almost 600 years, until the French Revolutionin 1789. [de Sivry, L: "Dictionnaire de Geographie Ecclesiastique", page 375., 1852 ed, from ecclesiastical record of letters between the Bishops of Bethlehem 'in partibus' to the bishops of Auxerre]
Bethlehem — along with Jerusalem,
Nazarethand Sidon— was briefly ceded to the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalemby a treaty between Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamilin 1229, in return for a ten-year truce between the Ayyubids and the Crusaders. The treaty expired in 1239 and Bethlehem was recaptured by the Muslims in 1244. [cite book |first=Peirs |last=Paul Read |title=The Templars |publisher=Macmillan |year=2000 |pages=206 |isbn=0312266588 |accessdate=2008-04-12]
In 1250, with the coming to power of the
Mamluks under Rukn al-Din Baibars, tolerance of Christianity declined; the clergies left the city, and in 1263 the town walls were demolished. The Latin clergy returned to Bethlehem the following century, establishing themselves in the monastery adjoining the Basilica of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox were given control of the basilica and shared control of the Milk Grotto with the Latins and the Armenians.
Ottoman and Egyptian era
From 1517, during the years of Ottoman control, custody of the Basilica was bitterly disputed between the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. From 1831 to 1841, Palestine was under the rule
Muhammad Ali Dynastyof Egypt. During this period, the town suffered an earthquake as well as the destruction of the Muslim quarter by Egyptian troops, apparently as a reprisal for the murder of a favored loyalist of Ibrahim Pasha.
In 1841, Bethlehem came under Ottoman rule once more and remained so until the end of the World War I. Under the Ottomans, Bethlehem's inhabitants faced unemployment,
compulsory military serviceand heavy taxes, resulting in mass emigration particularly to South America.
As a result of their victory in World War I, the Allies, particularly Britain and France, divided the captured Ottoman provinces into mandates. On September 29, 1923 Bethlehem and the majority of the territory west of the Jordan River fell under the control of the
British Mandate of Palestine. In the United Nations General Assembly's 1947 resolution to partition Palestine, Bethlehem was included in the special international enclave of Jerusalem to be administered by the United Nations. [cite web |url=http://imeu.net/news/article00125.shtml |title=IMEU: Maps: 2.7 - Jerusalem and the Corpus Separatum proposed in 1947 |accessdate=2008-01-22] Jordanoccupied the city during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. [ [http://www.insideout.org/documentaries/jerusalem/land/timeline2.html A Jerusalem Timeline, 3,000 Years of The City's History] (2001-02) National Public Radioand BBC News] Many refugees from areas captured by Israeliforces in 1947-48 fled to the Bethlehem area, primarily settling in the what became the official refugee camps of 'Azza (Beit Jibrin) and 'Aida in the north and Dheishehin the south. [ [http://www.bethlehem.ps/about/ About Bethlehem] The Centre for Cultural Heritage Preservation via Bethlehem.ps] The influx of refugees significantly transformed Bethlehem's Christian majority into a Muslim one. [ [http://www.bethlehem.ps/facts/population.php Population in the Bethlehem District] Bethlehem.ps]
Jordan retained control of the city until the
Six-Day Warin 1967, when Bethlehem was occupied by Israel, along with the rest of the West Bank. On December 21, 1995, Israeli troops withdrew from Bethlehem, [cite web |url=http://www.passia.org/palestine_facts/chronology/19941995.htm |title=Palestine Facts Timeline: 1994-1995 |publisher= Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs|accessdate=2008-03-29] and three days later the city came under the complete administration and military control of the Palestinian National Authorityin conformance with the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Stripin 1995. [cite news |url=http://www.cnn.com/EVENTS/seasons_greetings/bethlehem_celebration/ |title=Muslims, Christians celebrate in Bethlehem |first=Jerrold |last=Kessel |work= CNN News|publisher=Cable News Network |date= 1995-12-24|accessdate=2008-01-22]
During the Second Palestinian Intifada, which began in 2000-01, Bethlehem's infrastructure and tourism industry was severely damaged.cite web|title=Costs of Conflict: The Changing Face of Bethlehem|publisher=United Nations|author=Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) & Office of the Special Coordinator for the Peace Process in the Middle East|month=December | year=2004|url=http://www.miftah.org/Doc/Reports/2004/Beth_Rep_Dec04_En.pdf] [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7146980.stm |title=Better times return to Bethlehem | Middle East |work=
BBC News|publisher=BBC MMVII |date= 2007-12-22|accessdate=2008-01-22] In 2002, it was a primary combat zone in Operation Defensive Shield, a major military offensive by the Israeli Defense Forces(IDF).cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1916580.stm |title=Vatican outrage over church siege |publisher=BBC MMIII |work= BBC News|date= 2002-04-08|accessdate=2008-03-29]
During the operation, the IDF besieged the Church of the Nativity, where about 200 Palestinians, including a group of militants, sought refuge amid IDF advancements into the city. The siege lasted for thirty nine days and nine militants and the church's bellringer were killed. It ended with an agreement to exile thirteen of the wanted militants to various European nations and
Mauritania. Pope John Paul IIcondemned Israel's actions, describing them as reaching "unimaginable and intolerable" levels and the United Kingdom's foreign ministry stated they were "totally unacceptable".
Bethlehem stands at an elevation of about m to ft|775 above sea level, m to ft|30 higher than nearby
Jerusalem. [cite web|url=http://www.pnic.gov.ps/english/tourism/tour7.html#file2|title=Tourism In Bethlehem Governorate|work=Palestinian National Information Center] Bethlehem is situated on the southern portion in the Judean Mountains.
The city is located km to mi|73 northeast of
Gazaand the Mediterranean Sea, km to mi|75 west of Amman, Jordan, km to mi|59 southeast of Tel Aviv, Israeland km to mi|10 south of Jerusalem. [ [http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/distanceresult.html?p1=1048&p2=676 Distance from Bethlehem to Tel Aviv] , [http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/distanceresult.html?p1=1048&p2=702 Distance from Bethlehem to Gaza] Time and Date AS / Steffen Thorsen] Nearby cities and towns include Beit Safafaand Jerusalem to the north, Beit Jalato the northwest, Husanto the west, al-Khadr and Artas to the southwest, and Beit Sahourto the east. Beit Jala and the latter form an agglomeration with Bethlehem and the Aida and Azzarefugee camps are located within the city limits. [ [http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/9b/Thameenmap3.jpgDetailed map of the West Bank] ]
In the center of Bethlehem, is its old city. The old city consists of eight quarters, laid out in a mosaic style, forming the area around the Manger Square. The quarters, include the Christian al-Najajreh, al-Farahiyeh, al-Anatreh, al-Tarajmeh, al-Qawawsa and Hreizat quarters and al-Fawaghreh — the only Muslim quarter. [http://www.bethlehem.ps/cultural_sites/towns_in_bethlehem/7.php Bethlehem’s Quarters] Centre for Cultural Heritage Preservation] Most of the Christian quarters are named after the Arab
Ghassanidclans that settled there. [ [http://www.med-voices.org/pages/showresource.aspx?id=1206&lang=0 Clans -2] Mediterranean Voices: Oral History and Cultural Practice in Mediterranean Cities] Al-Qawawsa Quarter was formed by Arab Christian emigrants from the nearby town of Tuqu'in the 18th century. [http://www.bethlehem.ps/cultural_sites/natural_heritage/tqoa.php Tqoa’ area] Zeiter, Leila. Centre for Preservation of Culture and History.] There is also a Syriacquarter outside of the old city, whose inhabitants originate from Midyatin Kurdistan. [ [http://www.stern-von-bethlehem.de/english/bato_eng.html Short Overview of the Bato Family] BatoFamily.com] The total population of the old city is about 5,000.
Bethlehem has a
Mediterranean climate, with hot and dry summers and cold winters. Temperatures in the winter season, from mid-December to mid-March, could be cold and rainy. January is the coldest month, with temperatures ranging from 1 to 13 degree Celsius (33°–55 °F). From May through September, the weather is warm and sunny. August is the hottest month, with a high of 27 degrees Celsius (81°–63 °F). Bethlehem receives an average of mm to in|700 of rainfall annually, 70% between November and January.cite web|url=http://www.bethlehem-city.org/English/City/GeneralInfo/index.php|title=Bethlehem City: Climate|work=Bethlehem Municipality]
Bethlehem's average annual relative
humidityis 60% and reaches its highest rates between January and February. Humidity levels are at their lowest in May. Night dew may occur in up to 180 days per year. The city is influenced by the Mediterranean Sea breeze that occurs around mid-day. However, Bethlehem is affected also by annual waves of hot, dry, sandy and dust "Khamaseen" winds that originate from the Arabian Desert, during April, May and mid-June.
According to a PCBS estimate, Bethlehem had a population of 29,930 in mid-year 2006. In the PCBS's 1997 census, the city had a population of 21,670, including a total of 6,570 refugees, accounting for 30.3% of the city's population. [cite web |url=http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/_PCBS/census/phc_97/bet_t6.aspx |title=Palestinian Population by Locality and Refugee Status |accessdate=2008-01-22 |publisher=
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics] In 1998, the religious makeup of the city was 67% Sunni Muslim and 33% Christian, mostly of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations.cite book|author=Andrea Pacini|title=Socio-Political and Community Dynamics of Arab Christians in Jordan, Israel, and the Autonomous Palestinian Territories|pages=p. 282|publisher=Clarendon Press|year=1998|isbn=0-19-829388-7] In 2005, the total Christian population decreased to about 20%. [cite web |url=http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewCulture.asp?Page=%5CCulture%5Carchive%5C200505%5CCUL20050519b.html+ |title=Bethlehem Christians Worry About Islamic Takeover in Jesus' Birthplace |date= 2005-05-19|accessdate=2008-01-22] Despite Islambeing Bethlehem's dominant religion, the only Muslim house of worship in the city is the Mosque of Omar located in the Manger Square.
In 1997, the age distribution of Bethlehem's inhabitants was 27.4% under the age of 10, 20% from 10 to 19, 17.3% from 20-29, 17.7% from 30 to 44, 12.1% from 45-64 and 5.3% above the age of 65. There were 11,079 males and 10,594 females.
The majority of Bethlehem's Christian inhabitants claim ancestry from
Arab Christianclans from the Arabian Peninsula, including the city's two largest: al-Farahiyya and an-Najajreh. The former claims to have descended from the Ghassanids who migrated from Yemento the Wadi Musaarea in present-day Jordanand an-Najajreh descend from the Arabs of Najranin the southern Hejaz. Another Bethlehem clan, al-Anantreh, also trace their ancestry to the Arabian Peninsula. [ [http://admusallam.bethlehem.edu/bethlehem/beth-hlccni.htm Bethlehem, The Holy Land’s Collective Cultural National Identity: A Palestinian Arab Historical Perspective] Musallam, Adnan. Bethlehem University.]
The percentage of Christians in Bethlehem has been steadily falling, primarily due to continuous emigration. The lower birth rate among Christians as compared to Muslims also accounts for some of the decline. In 1947, Christians made up 75% of the population, but by 1998 this figure had dropped to 33%. The current mayor of Bethlehem,
Victor Batarsehtold the Voice of Americathat, "due to the stress, either physical or psychological, and the bad economic situation, many people are emigrating, either Christians or Muslims, but it is more apparent among Christians, because they already are a minority."cite news|title=Christians Disappearing in the Birthplace of Jesus|author=Jim Teeple|publisher=Voice of America|date=24 December 2005|url=http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2005-12/2005-12-24-voa17.cfm?CFID=43253380&CFTOKEN=44091067]
Palestinian Authority rule following the Interim Agreements is officially committed to equality for Bethlehem area Christians, although there have been a few incidents of violence against them by the
Preventive Security Serviceand militant factions. [cite news|url=http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp490.htm|publisher= Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs|title=The Beleaguered Christians of the Palestinian-Controlled Areas: Official PA Domination of Christians|author=David Raab|date=5 January 2003]
The outbreak of the
Second Intifadaand the resultant decrease in tourism has also affected the Christian minority, leaving many economically stricken as they are the owners of many Bethlehem hotels and services which cater to foreign tourists. A statistical analysis of why Christians are leaving the area blamed the lack of economic and educational opportunities, especially due to the Christians' middle-class status and higher education. [ cite journal|title=Palestinian Christianity – A Study in Religion and Politics|journal=International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church|month=July | year=2005|first=Leonard|last=Marsh|coauthors=|volume=57|issue=7|pages=147–66|id= |url=|format=|accessdate= ] Since the Second Intifada, 10% of the Christian population have left the city.
A 2006 poll of Bethlehem's Christians conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Research and Cultural Dialogue, found that 90% reported having Muslim friends, 73.3% agreed that the Palestinian National Authority treats Christian heritage in the city with respect and 78% attributed the ongoing exodus of Christians from Bethlehem to the Israeli travel restrictions in the area. [cite web|title=Americans not sure where Bethlehem is, survey shows|publisher=
Hamasgovernment's official position has been to support the city's Christian population, though the party at times has been criticized by some anonymous residents for increasing the Islamic presence in the city by, for example, activating the call to prayer at a previously unused local mosque in a Christian neighborhood. According to the Jerusalem Post, under Hamas, the Christian population faces a lack of law and order which has left it susceptible to land theft by local mafia who take advantage of ineffective courts and the perception that the Christian population is less likely to stand up for itself. [cite news|url=http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1164881946344&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull|publisher= Jerusalem Post|title=Is Christianity dying in Bethlehem?|author=Joerg Luyken|date=21 December 2006] [cite news|url=http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=1&cid=1167467807655&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull|publisher= Jerusalem Post|title=Bethlehem Christians fear neighbors|author= Khaled Abu Toameh|date=January 25, 2007] [cite web|title=Palestinian Christians Look Back on a Year of Troubles|publisher= New York Times|date= 2007-03-11|url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/world/middleeast/11christians.html?_r=1&oref=slogin]
hopping and industry
Shopping is a major sector in Bethlehem, especially during the
Christmasseason. The city's main streets and old markets are lined with shops selling handicrafts, Middle Eastern spices, jewelry and oriental sweets such as baklawa. [cite web |url=http://www.bethlehem-city.org/English/City/GeneralInfo/Shopping.php+ |title=Bethlehem Municipality(Site Under Construction) |accessdate=2008-01-22]
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.cite web|url=http://www.travelershub.com/destination_guide/middle_east/bethlehem.html|title= Bethlehem: Shopping|publisher=TouristHub] The carvings are the main product purchased by tourists visiting Bethlehem.cite web|url=http://www.bethlehem-city.org/English/City/Heritage/HnadCraft.php|title=Handicrafts: Olive-wood carving|publisher=Bethlehem Municipality ] 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 Damascusduring the 14th century. Stone and marble-cutting, textiles, furniture and furnishings are other prevalent industries. Bethlehem also produces paints, plastics, synthetic rubber, pharmaceuticals, construction materials and food products, mainly pasta and confectionery.cite web |url=http://www.bethlehem.ps/facts/economy.php |title=Economy: Tourism |publisher=Bethlehem.ps |accessdate=2008-03-29]
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. [cite web |url=http://www.bethlehem.ps/shopping/wine.php |title=Wine |last=Jahsan |first=Ruby |publisher=The Centre for Cultural Heritage Preservation |accessdate=2008-01-29]
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. Tourism accounts for approximately 65% of the city's economy and 11% of the
Palestinian National Authority. [cite web |url=http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/896CF7DD-9446-44C0-9B4D-4BA24A502BDF.htm+ |title=Bethlehem's Struggles Continue |work=Al Jazeera English |accessdate=2008-01-22]
Church of the Nativityis 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 Jeromespent 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. [ [http://www.asiatraveltips.com/news05/129-JacirPalace.shtml Jacir Palace, InterContinental Bethlehem re-opens for business] InterContinental Hotels Group]
Bethlehem hosted the largest ever economic conference in the Palestinian territories on May 21, 2008. It was initiated by Palestinian Prime Minister and former Finance Minister
Salam Fayyadto convince over 1,000 businessmen, bankers and government officials from throughout the Middle Eastto invest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, although Fayyad admitted the territories were "far from the perfect business environment", being directly linked with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nonetheless, 1.4 billion US dollars was secured for business investments in the Palestinian territories. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7412129.stm Palestinians bidding for business] Maqbool, Aleem. " BBC News". BBC MMVIII. 2008-05-21. Retrieved on 2008-05-22.]
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.cite web |title=Palestine costume before 1948: by region |publisher=Palestine Costume Archive |accessdate=2008-01-28 |url=http://web.archive.org/web/20061024053919/http://www.palestinecostumearchive.org/regional.htm] Bethlehem was a center for embroidery producing a "strong overall effect of colors and metallic brilliance." [cite book |last=Stillman |first=Yedida Kalfon |title=Palestinian costume and jewelry |publisher=University of New Mexico Press |year=1979 |location=Albuquerque |pages=p. 46 |isbn=0-8263-0490-7 ]
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
velvetor 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 Museumoffers 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. [cite web|url=http://www.palestinianheritagecenter.com/objectives.htm|title=Palestinian Heritage Center: Objectives] 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 Musicis 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. [cite web |url=http://ncm.birzeit.edu/new/page.php?page=branches+ |title=The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music |accessdate=2008-01-22 ]
Christmas rites are held in Bethlehem on three different dates: December 24 is the traditional date by the Roman Catholic and
Protestantdenominations, 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 Churchand Protestants often hold services at Shepherds' Fields. [cite web |url=http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/bethlehem-christmas.htm |title=Christmas in Bethlehem |publisher=Sacred Destinations |accessdate=2008-01-22 ]
Bethlehem, like other Palestinian localities, participates in festivals related to saints and prophets that are attached to Palestinian folklore. One such festival is the annual
Feast of Saint George( al-Khadr) on 5 May-6 May. During the celebrations, Greek Orthodox Christians from the city march in procession to the nearby town of al-Khader to baptize newborns in the waters around the Monastery of St. George and sacrifice a sheep in ritual. [ [http://126.96.36.199/search?q=cache:fJV8drrNIiAJ:www.bethlehem.ps/religious_sites/feasts/st_george.php+Khader+Feast+of+Saint+George&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=9&gl=us&client=firefox-a St. George's Feast] Bethlehem.ps.]
The Feast of St.
Elijah(Mar Elias) is held in a similar way, except the procession is towards the Monastery of St. Elijah to the north of Bethlehem. The feast commemorates the miracles attributed to the saint, a popular figure in Palestine. Prior, to restrictions imposed on the residents by Israel, local Christians used to visit the monastery, bringing various gifts, such as bread, olive oil and candles. The candles would be lit and the oil would be placed in front of icons in the church, while the bread was handed to the monks. [ [http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:MNLK2kodDgYJ:www.bethlehem.ps/religious_sites/feasts/mar_elias.php+Feast+of+Mar+Elias+Bethlehem&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us&client=firefox-a St. Elijah's (Mar Elias) Feast] Bethlehem.ps]
Bethlehem is the "muhfaza" (seat) or district capital of the
Bethlehem held its first municipal elections in 1876, after the "mukhtars" ("heads") the quarters of Bethlehem's Old City (excluding the Syriac Quarter) made the decision to elect a local council of seven members to represent each clan in the town. A
Basic Lawwas established so that if the victor for mayor was a Catholic, his deputy should be of the Greek Orthodox community.
Throughout, Bethlehem's rule by the British and Jordan, the Syriac Quarter was allowed to participate in the election, as were the Ta'amrah
Bedouins and Palestinian refugees, hence ratifying the amount of municipal members in the council to eleven. In 1976, an amendment was passed to allow women to vote and become council members and later the voting age was increased from 21 to 25. [ [http://www.bethlehem-city.org/English/TempVewMenuSub.php?Mid=6 Municipal Council Elections during the British and Jordanian Periods] Bethlehem Municipal Council.]
Today, the Bethlehem Municipal Council consists of fifteen elected members, including the mayor and deputy mayor. A special statute requires that the mayor and a majority of the municipal council be Christian, while the remainder are open seats, not restricted to any religion.
There are several branches of political parties on the council, including
Communist, Islamist, and secular. The leftist factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO) such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine(PFLP) and the Palestinian People's Party(PPP) usually dominate the reserved seats. Hamasgained the majority of the open seats in the 2005 Palestinian municipal elections. [cite web |url=http://www.bethlehem-city.org/English/Counil/index.php+ |title=Bethlehem Municipality(Site Under Construction) |accessdate=2008-01-22 ]
Elected Candidates of the Bethlehem municipal elections of 2005
The mayor and the deputy mayor of Bethlehem are required by municipal law to be Christian.
Mikhail Abu Saadeh- 1876
Khalil Yaqub- 1880
Suleiman Jacir- 1884
Issa Abdullah Marcus- 1888
Yaqub Khalil Elias- 1892
Hanna Mansur- 1895-1915
Salim Issa al-Batarseh- 1916-17
Salah Giries Jaqaman- 1917-21
Musa Qattan- 1921-25
Hanna Ibrahim Miladah- 1926-28
Nicoloa Attalah Shain- 1929-33
Hanna Issa al-Qawwas- 1936-46
Issa Basil Bandak- 1946-51
Elias Bandak- 1951-53
Afif Salm Batarseh- 1952-53
Elias Bandak- 1953-57
Ayyub Musallam- 1958-62
Elias Bandak- 1963-72
Elias Freij- 1972-97
Hanna Nasser- 1997-2005
Victor Batarseh(current) - 2005- [cite web|url=http://www.nablus.org/en/htm/guide/Municipalities.htm|title=Municipalities Info] [cite web |url=http://www.bethlehem-city.org/English/Mayor/FormerMayors.php |title=Bethlehem Municipality |accessdate=2008-01-22 |format= |work=]
According to the
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics(PCBS), in 1997, approximately 84% of Bethlehem's population over the age of 10 was literate. Of the city's population, 10,414 were enrolled in schools (4,015 in primary school, 3,578 in secondary and 2,821 in high school). About 14.1% of high school students received diplomas. [cite web |url=http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/Portals/_pcbs/phc_97/bet_t3.aspx |title=Palestinian Population (10 Years and Over) by Locality, Sex and Educational Attainment |accessdate=2008-01-22 |publisher= Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics] There were 135 schools in the Bethlehem Governoratein 2006; 100 run the Education Ministry of the Palestinian National Authority, seven by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and 28 were private. [cite web |url=http://www.mohe.gov.ps/downloads/pdffiles/statisticE.pdf |title=Statistics about General Education in Palestine 2005-2006 |publisher= Education Minister of the Palestinian National Authority|accessdate=2008-01-22|format=PDF]
Bethlehem is home to
Bethlehem University, a Catholic Christian co-educational institution of higher learning founded in 1973 in the Lasallian tradition, open to students of all faiths. Bethlehem University is the first university established in the West Bank, and can trace its roots to 1893 when the De La Salle Christian Brothersopened schools throughout Palestine and Egypt. [cite web |url=http://www.bethlehem.edu/about/history.shtml |title=Bethlehem University - History |publisher= Bethlehem University|accessdate=2008-01-22 ]
Bethlehem has three bus stations owned by private companies which offer service to Jerusalem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour,
Hebron, Nahalin, Battir, al-Khader, al-Ubeidiyaand Beit Fajjar. There are two taxi stations that make trips to Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, Jerusalem, Tuqu'and Herodium. There are also two car rental departments: Murad and 'Orabi. Buses and taxis with West Bank licenses are not allowed to enter Israel, including Jerusalem, without a permit. [cite web |url=http://www.bethlehem-city.org/English/City/TransSys.php |title=Bethlehem Public Transport System |accessdate=2008-01-22 Bethlehem Municipality.]
The Israeli construction of the West Bank barrier has had an impact on Bethlehem politically, socially, and economically. The barrier runs along the northern side of the town's built-up area, within meters of houses in 'Aida refugee camp on one side, and the Jerusalem municipality on the other.
Most entrances and exits from the Bethlehem agglomeration to the rest of the
West Bankare currently subject to Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks. The level of access varies based on Israeli security directives. Travel for Bethlehem's Palestinian residents from the West Bank into Israeli-annexed Jerusalem is regulated by a permit-system. [cite web |url=http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/db942872b9eae454852560f6005a76fb/b45e8d8caacda74785256dbb0062e7b9!OpenDocument+ |title=Impact of Israel's separation barrier on affected West Bank communities - OCHA update report #2 (30 September 2003) |accessdate=2008-01-22 |format= |work=] Acquiring such permits to enter, what in the past served in many ways as an urban anchor to Bethlehem, has become exceedingly rare since the onset of the violence surrounding the Second Intifada, though Israel has subsequently erected a terminal to ease transit between the two adjoining cities. [cite web |url=http://domino.un.org/UNISPAl.NSF/3822b5e39951876a85256b6e0058a478/0306124470443c948525712b006a70b7!OpenDocument+ |title=Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine 17 January 2006 |accessdate=2008-01-22 |author=John Dugard |work=Commission on Human Rights ]
Palestinians are not allowed to enter the Jewish holy site of
Rachel's Tomb, which is on the outskirts of the city, without a permit. Since Bethlehem and the nearby biblical Solomon's Poolslie in Area A (territory under both PNA military and civil administration), Israeli citizens are barred without a permit from the Israeli military authorities.
Bethlehem has the following sister cities. [ [http://www.twinningwithpalestine.net/groupsinternational.html Twinning with Palestine] Britain Palestine Twinning Network] [ [http://www.bethlehem-city.org/English/Twinning/index.php The City of Bethlehem has signed a twinning agreements with the following cities] Bethlehem Municipality.]
* Marrickville, Australia.
Třebechovice pod Orebem, Czech Republic.
Villa Alemana, Chile.
Cologne, Germany. [cite web|url=http://www.bethlehem.edu/news_events/bu_in_news/UserFiles/File/BethlehemConvention2006.pdf|title= Bethlehem Convention|format=PDF]
Pavia, Italy. [cite web|url=http://www.unipv.it/iuss/esascs/ip_csn_bethlehem.htm|title=The Cooperation and Development School of Pavia]
San Miniato, Italy.
The Hague, Netherlands.
Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Pretoria, South Africa.
Zaragoza, Spain. [ [http://cmisapp.zaragoza.es/ciudad/zaragozainternacional/hermanamientos.htm Zaragoza Internacional: HERMANAMIENTOS ZARAGOZA, ESPAÑA:] Ayuntamiento de Zaragoza sp icon]
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
* Burlington, United States.
* Joplin, United States.
* Orlando, United States.
Star of Bethlehem
Bethlehem of Galilee
Municipal election in Bethlehem, 2005
* [http://www.bethlehem-city.org Bethlehem Municipality]
* [http://www.peacenter.org Bethlehem Peace Center]
* [http://www.christusrex.org/www1/ofm/sites/TSbtmenu.html Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land website - pages on Bethlehem]
* [http://www.biblelandshop.net/LIBRARY/Library10.html Bible Land Library]
* [http://www.bethlehem2000.org/main.html Bethlehem 2000 project]
* [http://www.openbethlehem.org/ Open Bethlehem civil society project]
* [http://www.palestine-family.net/index.php?nav=65&hits=20&searchword=al+khader&pageflip=26-22&did=604-1&searchResult=searchResult Bethlehem: Muslim-Christian living together]
* [http://www.ianandwendy.com/Israel/Bethlehem/slideshow.htm Photo Gallery of Bethlehem from 2007]
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