Spotlight on Bethlehem
Just outside of Jerusalem lies the ancient city of Bethlehem. While Jerusalem is the holy capital for Jews, Bethlehem holds the crown for Christians all over the world. The birthplace of Jesus, this prominent city has seen its share of rises and falls throughout history, and today it is the number one stop for any Christian tourist traveling in the Middle East. Here’s a closer look at this beautiful town with beautiful significance.
History of the City
Bethlehem was originally mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and then again in the New Testament. Hadrian destroyed the city during the Bar Kochva rebellions, but it was rebuilt twice; once by Helena and then again by Justinian I. Control of Bethlehem passed from the Romans to the Muslims to the Mamluks, Ottomans, British, Jordanians, and finally claimed by Israel who is the current ruler of the area.
Religiously Significant Sites
Aside from being the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem houses several important Christian sites, making it the first and most prominent stop on a Christian tour across Israel. Here are the places you’ll want to visit while you’re there:
- Church of the Nativity: Built in 325 AD, the beautiful structure is one of the oldest standing monasteries today. This church is also built on the exact site said to be Jesus’ birthplace, adding significance to antiquity.
- The Milk Grotto: This monumental cave is fascinating in both history and geographical prominence. The beautiful white stone cave is said to be the place where the Holy Family hid during the Herodian pillage. According to the texts, the Virgin Mary spilled some of her milk on the stone floor of the cave while nursing Jesus, turning the entire cave milky white. Many travelers struggling with infertility come to the grotto to harvest some of the restorative properties within the chalk.
- International Nativity Museum: This museum houses over 200 nativity scenes from various interpretations and designs. It is fascinating to see the subtle differences between cultures and ethnic groups depicted within these representations.
Bethlehem is a beautiful and ancient city that holds so much cultural and religious wealth within its streets. It may be the type of place you can't visit too often, so be sure to plan a stopover on your next trip.