25 Dec Bethlehem
Welcome to Bethlehem
Bethlehem in Israel, is a Christian pilgrimage epicentre, where thousands of people annually visit and immerse in the Christmas spirit and experience these unique and meaningful celebrations, especially the stories of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a predominantly Muslim town in West Bank, and it’s here where you will find the Church of Nativity — the actual birthplace of Jesus. You will also find Manger Square, named after the ‘manger’ where baby Jesus lay after he was born.
Visiting these places during Christmas was a special time for us to relive the stories of Jesus Christ and enjoy a grand Christmas tree with Christmas songs played in the streets. We also attended Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, broadcasted in Manger Square outside the Basilica.
A great place to be for a traditional Christmas celebration!
How To Get There
While in Jerusalem, this would be an excellent opportunity to visit Bethlehem, located 12 kilometres south of Jerusalem in the West Bank. With a few stops and an affordable way, you can travel by bus from Nazareth to Bethlehem, taking approximately three hours. Please note Bethlehem has no Israeli bus service, only Palestinian-operated bus companies that depart from the East Jerusalem Bus Station. The approximate journey time is between 30-45 minutes, including checkpoints. Alternatively, you can arrange a private car with a guide.
Places Of Interest
Built-in 1872 and also known as the Grotto of Our Lady, this church claimed to be where Mary spilt a drop of milk whilst nursing baby Jesus. It’s also the place where the family was said to seek refuge during the Innocents’ Massacre before they escaped to Egypt.
The Arab village of Beit-Sahur is traditionally known as Shepherds’ Field, the place where the announcement, by the Angels, to the shepherds of Jesus’ birth took place. The Greek-Orthodox site features a red-domed church rising above remains from the Byzantine era.
Just 5km southeast of Bethlehem is the ancient fortress known as Herodion. The national park is where King Herod the Great built an incredible palace and town following his victory over the Parthians and named it after himself. The ancient site contains preserved ruins, ritual baths and other remains from over 2,000 years ago.
Mar Saba is one of the oldest inhabited monasteries in the world and one maintaining its ancient traditions. It is a Greek Orthodox monastery that overlooks the Kidron Valley of Palestine, halfway between Bethlehem and the Dead Sea. This monastery offers an insight into the age-old tradition of the holy people to leave behind worldly distractions and seek God in the solitude of the desert. Book tickets here.
Where To Stay
To find accommodation in Bethlehem, you will need to search under Palestinian Territory.
It is a unique way to experience the city of the birth of Jesus as you venture into the West Bank. And, if you are lucky to be there in December when the weather is pleasant, it is a great place to celebrate a unique Christmas celebration!
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