Bethlehem birthplace of Jesus Christ is situated on the West Bank area of Palestine. It is the holy pilgrimage site for Christians from all around the World. Located in the middle of the Judeau Mountain Range, sandwiched between Israel and Jordan; This UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site is found about 8 kms south to Jerusalem and houses the Church of the Nativity – The oldest surviving Church in the World. Read on to know more about this Holy city.
History Of Bethlehem Birthplace Of Jesus Christ
It is believed that Jesus was born in the animal shelter as Mary and Joseph could not be housed in the overcrowded Inn because of the ongoing census. The baby was swaddled and placed in a manger (water trough) in the cave. The caves were used as animal shelters and storage units while houses were built near them. In the 3rd Century, St.Helena, the mother of Constantine commissioned a Church to be built above the cave. Bethlehem birthplace of Jesus Christ survived the Persian invasion.
How To Reach Bethlehem Birthplace Of Jesus Christ
The Holy Christian Pilgrimage Site can either be reached from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv by road. There are frequent buses from Jerusalem and it takes about 30-45 minutes to reach the Manger Square. Bus number 21 leaves from the Old city’s Damascus Gate and passes through the Israeli security wall and stops at the military checkpoint (Rachel’s crossing) at the entrance of Bethlehem.
Cost of bus tickets: INR 140/- per person
Cost of taxi: INR 1000/-
Highlights Of Bethlehem Birthplace Of Jesus Christ
This Holy place has many sites to visit other than the Church of the Nativity. There are quite a number of hotels and restaurants here along with some souvenir and antique shops to stop by:
1. The Church of the Nativity
This Holy Site occupies a total of 3 hectares. It is divided into 5 aisle or naves and each nave consists of a number of columns painted with beautiful images. The entry to the Basilica is through a ridiculously small doorway called ‘The Door of Humility’. One has to crouch down to enter the main altar. Portions of the floor mosaics in the octagonal floor placed directly above the Jesus birthplace cave is from the original Basilica from the 3rd Century.
2. The Milk Grotto
It is a few minutes walk from the Manger square. It is a grotto carved in an irregular shape inside a soft white rock. There is a Franciscan Chapel built above this grotto connected by a narrow corridor. It is believed that once Mary spilled some milk accidently while nursing the baby Jesus and that is the reason the walls of the grotto are white. For both Christians and Muslims, this place holds religious importance and signifies fertility.
3. Mar Saba Monastery
It is located 15 kms east to Bethlehem on the edge of a cliff in the Kidron valley. It is a Greek Orthodox Monastery formed in the 5th century by the monk St. Sabas who hailed from Cappadocia. It is the oldest continuously inhabiting monastery in the world and is currently housing 15 monks. The monks survive on the natural spring available nearby and olive oil candles as there is no electricity and running water available. It offers a wonderful hiking and trekking routes to watch the sunset.
Location: Juda desert
Timings: 8 AM – 4 PM
4. The Old Bethlehem Museum
The museum is housed in a 19th Century Palestinian building consisting of three rooms. It has a collection of cultural and historical items on display and a gift shop attached. One can learn about the life and history of the Palestinians. There is a embroidery centre located on the top floor of the building where one can buy hand embroidered products.
Location: Star Street, Bethlehem
Timings: 8 AM – 5 PM
5. Rachel’s Tomb
Rachel’s Tomb is the third holiest site for the Jews after the Temple Mount and Cave of Patriarchs. It is the burial site for the wife of Jacob who died giving birth to Benjamin. The tomb is covered by a velvet cloak. Jews, Christians and Muslims worship here alike. It is a symbol of nurture and motherly love and people from around the world gather here to address their share of pain and difficulties silently.
Location: Hebron road, near the Israel-West Bank Border
Timings: 8 AM – 6 PM
6. Church of St. Catherine
This Church sits right next to the Basilica of the Nativity. It is dedicated to St. Catherine based on the theory that Jesus appeared in a vision of Catherine of Alexandria in 310 A.D and prophesied that she would die a martyr. The architecture of the Church is beautiful and its main focal point is the large stained glass window depicting the nativity scene right behind the high altar. This Church holds a biblical significance and beneath the Church one can find a number of grottos that holds the Chapel of the Holy Innocents.
7. Solomon’s Pools
Solomon’s pools are the last historic stop for pilgrims from Bethlehem. There are three water basins filled by the natural springs found in the Kidron valley. It is said that this is where King Solomon used to come for some respite and wrote the Song of Solomon. It has been a part of the most ancient water system to the city of Jerusalem and is the oldest site available for tourists.
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Tips For Visiting Bethlehem Birthplace Of Jesus Christ
Keep these following tips in mind while you’re visiting Bethlehem birthplace of Jesus Christ to ensure that you’ve a safe and happy trip:
1. Carry passports along all the time. Visitors are checked in the Bethlehem-Israel border.
2. Women are expected to cover their heads and shoulders. Men should wear skull caps at religious sites.
3. Carry local currency Israeli Shekels. Sometimes USD and Euros are accepted.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bethlehem Birthplace Of Jesus Christ
Following are the frequently asked questions about visiting Bethlehem birthplace of Jesus Christ that you must give a read if you’re going to South Africa on a trip and planning to stop by at Bethlehem:
1. Where was Jesus Born?
A. Jesus Christ is believed to be born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth.
2. What Continent is Bethlehem situated in?
A. Bethlehem is situated in the Asian Continent, in the Middle East. The Jesus birthplace in the map is surrounded by Israel, Jordan and part of the dead sea.
3. How is the weather in Bethlehem?
A. The weather is generally temperate. Quite hot and humid all throughout the year with nights being pleasant. Chances of snow are there in the winters.
Bethlehem Birthplace of Jesus Christ is not only a religious site but an adventure in itself. In Hebrew, Bethlehem literally means “The House Of Meal”. Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. If you are looking for a trip of a lifetime, book your tickets to Israel today.