Fanack Home / Palestine / Geography of Palestine / Cities / Bethlehem/Bayt Lahm

Bethlehem/Bayt Lahm

Bethlehem (Bayt Lahm, House of Bread), 10 kilometres south of Jerusalem, is renowned as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth and site of the Church of the Nativity – one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the world. For this reason, for centuries, Bethlehem was inhabited by a Christian population. This changed in 1948 with the influx of thousands of refugees. Since then, the city has merged with the neighbouring villages of Beit Jala (Bayt Jala) and Beit Sahour (Bayt Sahur). It forms the largest concentration of Christian Palestinians in the West Bank.

Since the middle of the 19th century, religiously motivated tourism has become an important source of income. In the build-up to the 2000 Millennium Celebrations – anticipating the huge inflow of pilgrims – the city was given a substantial facelift, with large parts of the historic centre renovated. However, in that same year the Second Intifada threw a spanner in the works. The introduction of restrictive measures by the Israeli occupying forces, and the dangerous situation in general, put religious tourism under severe pressure.

Bethlehem’s economic position as the regional centre has been further undermined as a result of the erection of the 8-metre high Wall, which has also led to land dispossession. The grim area surrounding Rachel’s tomb (Qubbat Rahil; the biblical patriarch Jacob’s wife), which had been annexed by Israel in 1997, was sectioned off from the West Bank by the Wall in 2002. In the areas where the Wall is directly adjacent to houses and shops belonging to Palestinians (blocking their view entirely), the social and economic life has come to a complete standstill.

Entrance to the Church of the Nativity / Photo Fanack
Entrance to the Church of the Nativity / Photo Fanack
Entrance from inside out / Photo Fanack
Entrance from inside out / Photo Fanack
In the Church of the Nativity / Photo HH
In the Church of the Nativity / Photo HH
President Mahmoud Abbas during Christmas celebrations / Photo HH
President Mahmoud Abbas during Christmas celebrations / Photo HH
Central square / Photo Fanack
Central square / Photo Fanack
Old City / Photo Fanack
Old City / Photo Fanack
Old City / Photo Fanack
Old City / Photo Fanack
Shopping street / Photo Fanack
Shopping street / Photo Fanack

We would like to ask you something …

Fanack is an independent media organisation, not funded by any state or any interest group, that distributes in the Middle East and the wider world unbiased analysis and background information, based on facts, about the Middle East and North Africa.

The website grew rapidly in breadth and depth and today forms a rich and valuable source of information on 21 countries, from Morocco to Oman and from Iran to Yemen, both in Arabic and English. We currently reach six million readers annually and growing fast.

In order to guarantee the impartiality of information on the Chronicle, articles are published without by-lines. This also allows correspondents to write more freely about sensitive or controversial issues in their country. All articles are fact-checked before publication to ensure that content is accurate, current and unbiased.

To run such a website is very expensive. With a small donation, you can make a huge impact. And it only takes a minute. Thank you.