For pilgrims visiting Israel, crossing into Bethlehem from Jerusalem -and back, is not a complicated matter, especially since the terminal and transit system between the two cities has been upgraded by establishing special lanes for tourist moving between them. The Israel Ministry of Tourism has also been promoting cooperation with private Israeli and Palestinian partners to develop the crossing points, and ministry representative is always present or on call at the border crossing to deal with any unanticipated matters.
Near by Jerusalem lies the city of Bethlehem- in the territory of the Palestinian Authority, birthplace of King David and Jesus. As early as 248 AD, Origen wrote of his holyland visit here: “In Bethlehem you are shown the cave where He was born, and, within the cave, the manger where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. These things that they show you are common knowledge in the district, even among those who do not share a Christian faith. They admit, that Jesus whom Christians adore was born in this cave.” (Contra Celsum 51).
The biblical roots of Bethlehem go back to the time of the Patriarchs, indicated by Rachel’s Tomb on the outskirts of the town. In the nearby Shepherds’ Fields, at Beit Sahour, the angel proclaimed to the shepherds the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:8-20) in the manger in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7). The Basilica of the Nativity, virtually unchanged since the 4th century, stands over the birth grotto.
The city offers a spiritually rewarding experience to Christians traveling to the holyland, and is home to one of the oldest Christian communities in humanity. The city also known as Beth-Lehem, Bet Lehem, Beit Lahm, Beit Sahur, Betar, and the “City of David.”
Bethlehem is largely sustained by tourism, and specially Christians visiting the Church of Nativity. The entrance to this world-famous Church is surprisingly very simple. The large courtyard is used by many Christian pilgrim groups as well as vendors offering souvenirs. The church is the oldest church in the Holy Land. Constructed by Saint Helena in the 4th century.
Bethlehem is an important destination in the Holy Land which host many Christian pilgrims in the Christmas season, it is a tradition dating back nearly two-millennia. Bethlehem is also important to Jewish pilgrims whom visit Rachel’s Tomb an important Jewish holy site, regardless of faith, Bethlehem remains a must-see-place when traveling to Israel.