One of the important places in the scripture you will visit during your Christian tour of Israel is Bethlehem, where according to tradition Mary gave birth to Jesus in a cave, and where it’s currently marked by a star in the Byzantine church the Church of the Nativity that commemorates the birth of Jesus. Scriptures do not mention the existence of a cave, however it was during these times custom to build houses in front of caves, which provided additional shelter for animals and storage space.
Bethleham also known as Beit Lahm is currently a Palestinian city located in the central West Bank, neighboring south of Jerusalem and is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Besides being identified in the New Testament as the birth place of Jesus, it’s mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the city David was from.
The area to the east of Bethlehem is believed by tradition to be the area of the fields of the shepherds "keeping watch o'er their flocks by night." Many churches have been built to commemorate this event in the surrounding area, and still to this day you will see shepherds tending their flocks in this same area during your tour to Bethlehem.
You'll find during your Israel tour that Bethleham has a rich history with many different rulers, in 529 it was sacked by the Samaritans, and rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. Later the city was conquered yet apparently spared destruction from the Persians in 614 because it is said that invaders saw the depictions of the Magi on the walls. In 1099, Crusaders captured Bethlehem and replaced the Greek Orthodox clergy. The Latin clergy which replaced the Greek Orthodox were later removed after the city was taken by Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria. With the rise of the Mamluks in 1250, the city's walls were destroyed, and were then rebuilt during the Ottoman Empire rule. The British gained control of Bethlehem from the Ottomans during World War I. Jordan attained the city in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and later in 1967 occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War. From 1995, Bethlehem has been governed by the Palestinian National Authority.
Bethlehem today is a popular holy land destination home to one of the largest Palestinian Christian communities. Besides the Christian sites of the Church of Nativity, Shepherds’ field, and Manger’s Square, you will find Rachel’s Tomb, an important Jewish, Christian, and Muslim holy site, located in the north of the city.