The Museum is a project of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. It was renovated by the Department of Antiquities, in coordination with the UNDP and the Greek Orthodox Society between 1998 and 2000. In 2014, the building was restored again with help of the French Consulate of Jerusalem.
Just south of Bethlehem, near Solomon’s Pools, lies the Artas Village or Urtas. The name Artas originates from hortus, the Latin for “garden” because it is believed to be the site of the hortus conclusus (enclosed garden) referred to in Solomon’s Canticles or Song of Songs: “Thou art like a garden enclosed, my sister, my spouse, like a sealed fountain.
The Bethlehem Folklore Museum was established in 1979 by the Arab Women’s Union and is one of the most original museums in Palestine. The construction consists of two houses with typical Palestinian architecture, which include a renovated kitchen, a diwan, a bedroom, and an upper floor. The Museum houses a collection of traditional Palestinian household items, photographs, furniture, and works of art that show life in Bethlehem from 1900 to 1932.
On August 20, 1875, ten Carmelite Sisters left their convent in Pau, France and traveled to Bethlehem, where they wished to built a new Carmelite Convent. Among them was a native of Palestine – Mariam Baouardy, St. Mary of Jesus Crucified, who chose the location of the convent on the Hill of David that faces the hill upon which the Church of the Nativity stands.
The Grotto’s name comes from the belief that a drop of the Virgin Mary’s milk fell down onto the floor of the cave and changed its color to milky-white. For ages, childless woman of many religions have visited the Milk Grotto in order to ask for the gift of offspring. They usually take with them a piece of the Grotto’s white rock that is believed to have magical power.
The Church of the Annunciation is located in the eastern part of Beit Jala and was built in 1858 by the Latin Patriarchate .The complex includes the Patriarchal Seminary, where many students come to have spiritual studies, lessons, and experiences. Many of them graduate and become priests, and are then deployed to the many Latin parishes. Opposite the Church is the Latin Patriarchate School.
The Cremisan Monastery is located at the north of Beit Jala and belongs to the Salesian Priests who came from Italy at the end of the 19th century. They bought the land, and in 1882, the Monastery was built in the middle of the beautiful natural landscape. In 1885 a winery was built. In addition, they have a precious theological library and a cultural center for youth. The landscape of Cremisan is rich in agriculture with olive trees, grapes vines, apricot trees, and almond trees.
On the main street in the middle of Beit Jala, not far from the Patriarchal Seminary Building, is the Church of the Virgin Mary. It was built in 1862 by the Orthodox Patriarch Cyril II and is the largest in the city of Beit Jala. It’s an Ottoman Building architecture Church, Square shape, contain a beautiful Tower Bells. Inside the church there are many beautiful hand painting on the walls of the church represents different saints and different stories from the Bible.
The Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church has functioned in Bethlehem since 1893. It was designed by a well-known German architect who aimed to incorporate the traditions of Bethlehem into the building. For example, he decided that the steeple of the church, with its conical shape, would resemble the traditional hat of women in Bethlehem from the 19th century. During the construction process, the architect was astonished at the precision and fine-quality of work of the Palestinian stone cutters.
Located 10 km east of Bethlehem, are the remains of the magnificent palace of Herod the Great, the Herodion. Named after its builder, Herod, the palace was built in the end of the 1st century BC as a fortified castle with the palace inside. The Arabic name, Jabal Al Freidees is derived from the Arabic word “fardous” a word referring to the magnificent garden that was built at the foot of the hill. The Herodion was a lavish and luxurious palace in its day, with a city of round walls and a fort enclosing apartments, baths, and a beautiful garden.
The International Nativity Museum is located in the complex of the Salesian Convent, on a parallel road to Star Street. It exhibits a very broad collection of over 200 cribs showing the scene of the Nativity, which were imported to Bethlehem from various parts of the world. The diversity of the exposed cribs shows the variety of customs, liturgy, and rituals practiced in different countries.
King David’s wells are three water cisterns located within the grounds of the Catholic Action Center, just a few minutes walk from the Church of the Nativity. The wells, which are still in use, are related to the place where David’s soldiers broke through the Philistine lines in order to fetch him drinking water. When they returned to the Cave of Adullam, where the king and his followers were hiding, the king declined to drink from the water which his soldiers risked their lives to retrieve.
During the Ottoman period, the Square acted as a market where the people gathered to sell their fruits, vegetables, and livestock. In 1929, the old market was relocated to its present location in the middle of the Old City. Between 1998 and 2000, the Square was renovated.
Currently, Manger Square is considered an important cultural and social spot. Different events, exhibitions, concerts, and gatherings are organized there.
This Greek Orthodox Monastery, Mar Saba Monastery, located only 15 km from Bethlehem, is named after Saint Saba (439-532 CE) who settled in a cave opposite the actual site of the Monastery, in complete seclusion that lasted 5 years.
The Mosque of Omar, located at the corner of Paul VI Street and Manger Square, was built in 1860 in honor of Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, who in the 7th century conquered the Byzantine Empire. The Caliph prayed in the southern aisle of the Basilica of the Nativity, however, in the Pact of Omar, he decreed that the Basilica would remain a Christian place of worship. The document stipulated that Muslims would be allowed to pray there only individually and prohibited the call to prayer (al-Adhan) from being made from the church walls.
The 12-dunum site is being developed into a botanical and herbal garden of native plants and trees. Visitors can observe wildlife by the eco-pond inhabited by water turtles, frogs, fish, crabs, and water snails, and frequented by birds, bees (from onsite beehives), dragonflies, bats, and even foxes. An outdoor aviary houses some birds and provides a space for rehabilitation.
Qaus Al Zarrara (Zarrara Arch) is located on Star Street, just before the sharp turn left that leads to Manger Square.
It is assumed that Qaus Al-Zarrara used to be one of the main gates of Bethlehem’s old city center, as it is shown on many ancient lithographs (dating from the 16th – 17th centuries). Old paintings call it the Damascus Gate.
The Book of Genesis records Rachel as being buried on the way to Bethlehem by her husband Jacob, who marked her grave with a pillar. Since then, the Tomb of Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb) has been an important pilgrimage site and is venerated by Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
Both Eusebius and the ‘Pilgrim of Bordeaux’ mention the existence of the Tomb in their writings from the 4th century.
Located 3 Km south of Bethlehem near the village of Artas, are the Solomon’s Pools , the closest perennial springs to Jerusalem. The Pools are located at an altitude above that of the city; hence it once provided one of the oldest and most reliable water supplies.
Al Khader is something of a magical figure in Islamic folklore. He is a benevolent spirit who travels the world dispensing justice and good advice. St. George is merely one human manifestation of Al Khader (the Old Testament prophet Elijah is another), and St. George’s defeat of the dragon and the rescue of the damsel in distress are typical of Al-Khader’s style. For this reason, all Christian churches dedicated to St. George are also venerated by Muslims as sites associated with Al Khader.