As the birthplace of Jesus Christ (pbuh), the charming town of Bethlehem has a sweeter meaning to Christians than any other place on earth. This small rose-colored town has been thrust onto the world stage, its name conjuring up images of the infant Jesus, the Magi and the shepherds coming to worship. Bethlehem is indeed the Cradle of Christianity. Bethlehem means the house of bread in Aramaic and Hebrew, and the house of meat in Arabic. It was first inhabited by the Canaanites and was the house of their God “Lahama”. Bethlehem was mentioned in the Bible several times in connection with the death of Rachel; the friendship of Ruth and Boaz; the birth and anointing of King David (pbuh) and the birth of Jesus Christ (pbuh). Located 10 km south of Jerusalem, Bethlehem nestles on two hilly plateaus, and lies 2550 feet (765 m) above sea level, surrounded by rolling hills which stretch out eastward to the Judean desert providing stunning views of an ancient landscape of vine yards, olive trees, and tiny villages. Nowadays, Bethlehem is one of the most prosperous towns in Palestine, with an extremely fertile soil whose products are sold in the local market every week. There are many successful businesses in Bethlehem which produce a wide range of goods including plastics, furniture, textiles and jewelry. Bethlehem is also famous for its olive-wood handmade carvings, its mother-of-pearl jewelry and its distinctive embroidery. Modern Bethlehem is a major tourist attraction with all the accompanying commercialism that this implies. Bethlehem’s real charm can be found in the side streets away from the square and pilgrim sites. The town and souq are a heady mix of ancient and modern, Christian and Muslim.

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