Bethlehem is a town in West Bank, a region of Palestine, important religious centre, about 10 km south of Jerusalem, which has 30,000 inhabitants, mainly Muslim Palestinians. The city has a small community of Palestinian Christians, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. For Jews, the name is Ephrata and is the place of birth and Coronation of the King of Israel David. Regarded by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a place of pilgrimage that generates an important economic activity in the Christmas period. The city is also the seat of a place holy to Judaism, Rachel’s Tomb, located at the entrance of the city. Since 1995, the city is under the administration of the Palestinian Authority. There is also the Church of the Nativity with his famous star and the cave of the milk. The Christian assertions are not corroborated by archaeological discoveries in Bethlehem where no trace of contemporary habitat of Jesus was last updated so far. Between 1992 and 2003, the Israeli archaeologist Aviram Oshri led rescue excavations in the homonymous village of Bethlehem in Galilee, 6 km west of Nazareth. It has been the remains of a Jewish occupation of Herodian time, those of a Christian Basilica and issued the hypothesis that the Galilean village of Bethlehem would be the true birthplace of Jesus.
The city is now partially surrounded by the Israeli barrier in the form of an 8-metre wall built by the Israeli authorities.
Bethlehem received in 2000 the visit of Pope John Paul II to commemorate the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ.
You can go by bus from Jerusalem, at the Damascus Gate and it will leave you in front of the wall, at the Israeli checkpoint. You will need to submit your papers and get a permit from the authority to enter, after crossing the wall, you can take a shared taxi to the city. To return with the same bus, you will need to pass a control where you present your papers again.
Alternatively, you can take a taxi to Jerusalem. If the driver is Arabic, he may cross the wall, arrange a tour with a local guide and take you back to Jerusalem.
If you rent an Israeli car, it cannot penetrate in the territories.
A half-day visit to the Basilica of the Nativity and the old town is needed.
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