Beit Lechem

Beth-lehem, bayt LE-khem, בֵּית לֶחֶם
Bethlehem (Wikipedia)
This article is about the city in the West Bank. For other uses, see Bethlehem (disambiguation).
Other transcription(s)
 • Arabic بيت لحم
 • Also spelled Beit Lahm (official)
Bayt Lahm (unofficial)
 • Hebrew בֵּית לֶחֶם
Bethlehem skyline from Church of the Nativity
Bethlehem skyline from Church of the Nativity
Official logo of Bethlehem
Municipal Seal
Bethlehem is located in the Palestinian territories
Location of Bethlehem within the Palestinian territories
Coordinates: 31°42′11″N 35°11′44″E / 31.70306°N 35.19556°E / 31.70306; 35.19556Coordinates: 31°42′11″N 35°11′44″E / 31.70306°N 35.19556°E / 31.70306; 35.19556
Governorate Bethlehem
Founded 1400 BCE (est.)
 • Type City (from 1995)
 • Head of Municipality Vera Baboun
 • Jurisdiction 10,611 dunams (10.611 km2 or 4.097 sq mi)
Population (2007)
 • Jurisdiction 25,266
Name meaning House of Meat (Arabic); House of Bread (Hebrew & Aramaic)

Bethlehem (/ˈbɛθlihɛm/; Arabic: بيت لحم‎‎ About this sound Bayt Lahm [beːt.laħm], "House of Meat"; Hebrew: בֵּית לֶחֶםBet Lehem, [bet ˈleχem], "House of Bread"; Ancient Greek: Βηθλεέμ Greek pronunciation: [bɛːtʰle.ém]; Latin: Bethleem) is a Palestinian city located in the central West Bank, Palestine, about 10 km (6.2 miles) south of Jerusalem. Its population is approximately 25,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate. The economy is primarily tourist-driven.

The earliest known mention of the city was in the Amarna correspondence of 1350–1330 BCE during its habitation by the Canaanites. The Hebrew Bible, which says that the city of Bethlehem was built up as a fortified city by Rehoboam, identifies it as the city David was from and where he was crowned as the king of Israel. The New Testament identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem was destroyed by the Emperor Hadrian during the second-century Bar Kokhba revolt; its rebuilding was promoted by Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who commissioned the building of its great Church of the Nativity in 327 CE. The church was badly damaged by the Samaritans, who sacked it during a revolt in 529, but was rebuilt a century later by Emperor Justinian I.

Bethlehem became part of Jund Filastin following the Muslim conquest in 637. Muslim rule continued in Bethlehem until its conquest in 1099 by a crusading army, who replaced the town's Greek Orthodox clergy with a Latin one. In the mid-13th century, the Mamluks demolished the city's walls, which were subsequently rebuilt under the Ottomans in the early 16th century. Control of Bethlehem passed from the Ottomans to the British at the end of World War I. 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.

Bethlehem now has a Muslim majority, but is still home to a significant Palestinian Christian community. Bethlehem's chief economic sector is tourism, which peaks during the Christmas season when Christians make pilgrimage to the Church of the Nativity, as they have done for almost 2,000 years. Bethlehem has over 30 hotels and 300 handicraft workshops.Rachel's Tomb, an important Jewish holy site, is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem.

« Back to Glossary Index
Skip to toolbar