Bethlehem is a city in Area A of Palestine and the city where Jesus Christ was born. Bethlehem offers the following points of interest for tourists and photographers;
- Church of nativity (birthplace of Jesus Christ)
- Milk grotto
- Old city
- Shepherd’s Fields
- Mar Saba Monastery
- Al Khader Village
- Banksy Art
- Various museums
As there are quite a number of activities and points of interest in Bethlehem, you may consider staying overnight. If you are missing home you can sample the Bethlehem KFC, maybe the chicken is holy.
The Church of the Nativity is a UNESCO world heritage site and famous for being built on top of the birthplace of Jesus. The grotto in which Christ was born is easily accessible from inside the Church of Nativity. The church was originally built in 339 under guidance of Constantine the Great. It was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 565. The church at the present day is still incomplete and undergoing serious renovations. To get into the church you have to pass through an incredibly small door.
Inside the grotto under the Church of Nativity you’ll find the exact spot where Jesus Christ was born. It’s amazing how over 2000 years ago someone was forward thinking enough to mark the exact spot of the birthplace of Christ. Now we are all benefiting from his forward thinking as we can go pray at this spot, now marked with a star.
Due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine a separation wall has been constructed separating the 2 countries. Currently the wall is 440 km in length and when completed it will be around 700 km long. The construction of the separation wall has been very controversial but statistics prove that since the construction less Israelis have been victims of Palestinian attacks.
Along the wall on the Palestinian side you’ll see a lot of graffiti. The famous British graffiti artist Banksy has some famous artwork on the separation wall and around Bethlehem. You’ll find gift shops selling copies and reprints of his art on mugs, postcards and anything you can imagine. Banksy is so famous that a movie called Exit Through the Gift Shop was made about him and even nominated for an Oscar.
5 km from the center of Bethlehem is a cone shaped hill (paradise hill) with a palace fortress on top. This was a palace and small town called Herodium which was ordered to be built by Herod the Great. Herodium was built between 23 and 15BC before being destroyed by the Romans in 71 AD. Herod the great was buried here, on a visit you’ll pass his tomb and mausoleum. The views of Bethlehem and the surrounding landscapes from Herodium are beautiful.
The Milk Grotto is a chapel in Bethlehem. It’s symbolic because it’s believed the Milk Grotto is where the holy family were hiding when Herod ordered the massacre of the innocents. He attempted to kill all boys 2 years and under in order to kill Jesus Christ. There is a movie from 1994 about this called Slaughter of the Innocents. There is a story that a drop of milk dropped from Mary onto the floor turning the building white which is where the name Milk Grotto came from.
Another chapel in Bethlehem is the chapel of the shepherds fields. At this location an angel announced the birth of Christ the first celebrations were here.
From Bethlehem I took a bus to Jerusalem, although the cities are next to each other you have to drive around the wall which makes the journey longer. It’s possible that passing the wall your documents will be checked and you’ll face a delay. If not then you should be in Jerusalem in about an hour and a half.