According to Christian teaching, Jesus Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, built a basilica dedicated to the birth cave in 335 AD. This place has long been worshiped as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. According to the Tanach (Jewish Bible), the future Messiah will come from Bethlehem, the place of King David. Jesus' parents lived in Nazareth, but went to Joseph's hometown, Bethlehem, to do a census. There was no shelter available and they had to spend the night in a stable where Jesus was born on December 24th. Scientists suspect that Jesus was very likely born around 4 BC in Nazareth. To legitimize him as Messiah, his birthplace was moved to Bethlehem. Nevertheless, the "Church of the Nativity" is after the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the most important sanctuary of Christendom.
The Church of the Nativity is also the oldest church in the world. The church is an inconspicuous structure, it looks like a fortress or a city wall. The entrance has been subsequently reduced in size to prevent looting. You have to bend down to get inside. First you will get into an anteroom from where you can enter the five-aisled basilica. Stairs lead down to the birth grotto, the place where Jesus was born is marked with a silver star. Next to the Church of the Nativity is the St. Catherine's Church (photo), built in 1881 by the Franciscans. Both churches are connected by a cloister. The Church of the Nativity has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012 and is a major destination for pilgrimages to the "Holy Land". Therefore long waiting times into the grotto should be scheduled. Open daily 6: 30-17 in the summer until 19:30. Admission is free.
To the opposite of the Church of Nativity stands the "Mosque of Omar" at Manger Square. The simple mosque of the Muslim community is open to everyone, but is not a major attraction. Nevertheless, the minaret is one of the most striking buildings of Bethlehem and helps with orientation in Bethlehem. Manger Square also houses the tourist information center of Bethlehem. Here you can get a guide, to show you all the interesting places within Bethlehem.
The old town of Bethlehem is very small but charming. The Children Street or Pope Paul VI Street is the main shopping street but not a pedestrian zone. Occasionally cars drive through the narrow lane. In the old town there are small restaurants offering falafel and freshly squeezed juices. The people are very friendly to tourists.
Bethlehem is located on the border with Jerusalem, which is separated by a wall from the West Bank. The 4 m high border wall winds along the northern outskirts. The large concrete elements are painted by graffiti artists and reminds of the East Side Gallery in Berlin. This piece of wall was made famous by the British graffiti artist Banksy, who opened his "Wall*Mart" here. If you want to spray something on the wall, you can buy paint cans and rent ladders at the Wall*Mart. At the corner Hebron/Manger Street there is a watchtower, from here it is not far to the most beautiful graffitis. The wall was built to keep terrorists out of Israel, but it has also moved the frontier in favor of Israel. So Rachel's Tomb is now on the Israeli side.
Right by the wall is "The Walled Off Hotel" by Banksy. The hotel with the worst viewin the world. It is an art project by Banksy with attached Gallery on the 1st floor. You can just go in and look around. You can also stay here, but it is not a cheap treat despite the bad view. The rooms were designed by Banksy and other artists.
The "Dove of Peace" or "Armored Angel" with bulletproof vest has become one of the attractions of Bethlehem. It is located near the Wall and the "Walled Off Hotel" at the Palestinian Heritage Center on Manger Street. Street Art has only a short lifespan, let's see how long the work of art survives. Report if it was destroyed! Thank You!
How do I get from Jerusalem to Bethlehem?
The bus station for trips to Palestine is located at the Jerusalem Damascus Gate. We took bus 231 to Bethlehem. It is best to ask a bus driver at the station where the buses leave from, as the signs are not always correct. The journey takes about 40 minutes (don't forget your passport and Israeli immigration card). We have arrived on Hebron Street, which is approximately 1 km from the Church of the Nativity at Manger Square. Follow Children Street from the bus stop to Manger Square. The taxi drivers at the bus stop are very annoying and want to take tourists on a day tour for a lot of money. If you want to take a taxi, you should get away from the bus stop quickly and get a taxi at another place. If you want to go to Banksy and the Wall, you just have to follow Hebron Road north. After about 1 km you come to the wall and the "Walled off Hotel".