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Bethlehem in the Holy Land
The name was first mentioned in some of the Jewish sacred books written after the Israelis captured this region in 1200 B.C. Bethlehem-a walled city, was also a trading centre then.
Bethlehem declined in importance after 10th century B.C., when the Babylonian Empire absorbed Palestine and deported most of its inhabitants. Book of Ezra says that the town was founded again in about 538 B.C., when the Persians, the then occupants, allowed the Jews to return.
"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod..." (Matthew 2:1)
Bethlehem Sites of Interest
Bethlehem Holy Sites - Don't miss any of Bethlehem's holy sites!
Christian Guest houses in Bethlehem - Have a one-of-a-kind spiritua experience by staying in a Christian guest house. These unique accommodations are istuated in historical and architecturally stunning buildings and run by Christian churches from around the world.
Unique Bethlehem Tours - register for one of the many regularly scheduled group day tour
The birth of Jesus, in the first century BC, was the most important event that the town witnessed. According to the Christian gospels, Christ's mother Marry and father Joseph came to Bethlehem from Nazareth (their home) to get themselves registered in a census, but were unable to find an accommodation. They spend the night in a stable somewhere around the town and that was the place where Christ was born.
Bethlehem is also known as the place where St. Jerome lived in a cave near Basilica between AD 384 and 420 till his death. The place was attacked and looted on regular intervals by different empires of its time, but fortunately most of the important structures remained intact from these attacks. From mid 7th century AD, the town was ruled by Arabs, who despite being tolerant towards Jews and Christians, constructed many mosques in the region.
The next phase in the history of Bethlehem started with the Crusades, led by European Knights and adventurous who ruled over this region till 1187 AD, and made it a part of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, but not for long.
The character of this place changed drastically after Mamluk Turks captured the region between 13th and 16th century AD. During this period most of the Christian sites were destroyed and pilgrimage was stopped. In the next phase, Bethlehem was a point of contention between many empires.
In the mid 19th century, French emperor Napoleon III challenged the claim of Russian emperors who exerted special protective rights over the Christian populace of Ottoman Empire (of which Bethlehem was a part). But, more important event for the town itself during that period was a fire inside the grotto, which led to its complete destruction, however it was restored subsequently.
During the 20th century AD, four different governments at different points of time administered the town of Bethlehem. First of them were British from the beginning of First World War to the end of Second World War. After that came the successive rule of the King of Jordan and Israel. Presently the town is under control of Palestine Government, which is trying its best to preserve the heritage and importance of the town.
Article by Laila Asfoura
With permission of the Author
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