Church of Nativity

Bethlehem – The Birthplace of Jesus

Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus, the place where it all begins.
Here you will find everything you need to know before visiting this holy city!


Why is Bethlehem important?

Because there, a baby is born. A baby that is about to change the course of history. And His name? Jesus.
The Christ was born in Bethlehem, under the Judean king named Herod (you may remember Herod from the post about The Roman-Jewish wars in Judah)

A Churches in Bethlehem3
Chapel of the Milk Grotto Chapel of the Milk Grotto | Antoine Taveneaux, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons



Where is Bethlehem located?

Bethlehem is a city located in the central West Bank, about 10 km (6.2 miles) south of Jerusalem, in the center of Israel.


What are the main Christian attractions in Bethlehem?

The main Christian attractions in Bethlehem include:

  • Church of the Nativity – it is the oldest site continuously used as a place of worship in Christianity, and the basilica is the oldest major church in the Holy Land – it is over 1500 years old!
    The church has a holy site known as the Nativity Grotto, that is thought to be the cave in which Jesus was born.
    The church has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2012.
  • Church of Saint Catherine – a religious building that is affiliated with the Catholic Church and is located adjacent to the northern part of the Basilica of the Nativity.

    Church of Saint Catherine, Bethlehem
    Church of Saint Catherine, Bethlehem | Liadmalone, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Herodium – Herod’s palace fortress, about 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) southeast of Bethlehem. It is the highest point in the Judean desert, at 758 meters (2,487 ft.) above sea level.
  • Chapel of the Milk Grotto (also known as Grotto of Our Lady) – Christian tradition says this is the place where the Holy Family found refuge during the Massacre of the Innocents, before they could flee to Egypt.
    The name is derived from the story that a “drop of milk” of the Virgin Mary fell on the floor of the cave and changed its color to white.


What should I know before visiting Bethlehem?

Bethlehem is under the administration of the Palestinian Authority, which means it is not controlled by Israel. Hence, your personal safety is not guaranteed. Furthermore, there are military checkpoints between Israel and the territories under the administration of the Palestinian Authority.

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Are there any fun facts about Bethlehem?

Of course!

  • As the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem is obviously very important to Christians. However, it is also very important to Jewish people.
    Since this is the city King David is from, and the place where he was crowned as the king of Israel.
  • Bethlehem came under Jordanian rule during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and was later captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
    Since the 1995 Oslo Accords, Bethlehem has been administered by the Palestinian Authority.
  • The city has more than two million visitors every year!
    Christmas rites are held in Bethlehem on three different dates: December 25 is the traditional date by the Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations. Greek, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 6 and Armenian Orthodox Christians on January 19.