Bethlehem, meaning the “House of Bread”, is located about 10 km (6.2 miles) south of Jerusalem. The earliest mention of the city was in the Amarna correspondence of 1350–1330 BCE during e rule of the Canaanites. The Old Testament says that the city of Bethlehem was built as a fortified city by Rehoboam, and is the city where David was born and crowned as the king of Israel. The New Testament recognizes Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus. During the second-century Bar Kokhba revolt, Bethlehem was destroyed by the Emperor Hadrian. Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, rebuilt it by the same builders who built the great Church of the Nativity in 327 CE above the cave which was the birthplace of Jesus. The site of the Church of the Nativity is a World Heritage Site by (UNESCO).
During the revolt of the Samaritans, the church was badly damaged and sacked, but was rebuilt a century later by Emperor Justinian I. Following the Islamic conquest in 637 Bethlehem became part of Jund Filastin until the year 1099 when the Crusaders conquered it, and replaced the town’s Greek Orthodox clergy by a Latin one. The Mamluks destroyed the city walls in mid-13th century, which were eventually built by the Ottomans early 16th century.
Also called Grotto of Our Lady, this is a Catholic chapel in Bethlehem built in 1872. The current Chapel is built on the site of a former Byzantine church from the 5th century, of which only part of the mosaic floor remains. Christians believe that it’s the place where the Holy Family found refuge during the “slaughter of the innocents”, before they could flee to Egypt. The name is derived from the story that a “drop of milk” of the Virgin Mary fell on the floor of the cave and changed its color to white. The space contains three different caves and is visited by pilgrims in hope of healing infertile couples.
The tomb, located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem, is considered holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Although this site is considered unlikely to be the actual site of the grave,it is by far the most recognized candidate. The earliest extra-biblical records describing this tomb as Rachel’s burial place date to the first decades of the 4th cent. The tomb current form dates from the Ottoman period, and is situated in an Ottoman-period Muslim cemetery of Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque. Renovated in 1841, an antechamber, including a mihrab for Muslim prayer, was added.
The Herodium is a truncated-cone-shaped hill, 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) south ofJerusalem and 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) southeast of Bethlehem. Its Arabic name is Jabal al-Fureidis, meaning “Mountain of Paradise”. Herod the Great built a palace fortress and a small town at Tge Herodium, between 23 and 15 BCE, and is believed to have been buried there.The Herodium is 758 meters (2,487 ft) above sea level and has a breath taking view.
Mar Saba Greek Orthodox Monastery:
The Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Saba half way between Bethlehem and Jericho in Palestine and was built in the fifth century. It is today one of the oldest inhabited monasteries in the world. It was founded by Saint Sabas of Cappadocia in 439; it houses around 20 monks today. The treasures and frescoes are well preserved in the monastery and the area is left free from urbanization since the time of Constantine.
The monastery hangs dramatically down the cliff edge of a deep ravine and overlooks the breathtaking Kidron river canyon. Part of the Mar Saba tradition is the exclusion of women visitors. They may only look over the complex from a vantage point called the Women’s Tower — built, according to tradition, by St Sabas’ mother, who was also forbidden to enter the monastery.”
Is a small town which lies east of Bethlehem. It is the home of the Shepherd’s Fields, where the Shepherds herding their sheep saw the star of the Nativity and followed it to Bethlehem to where Jesus was born. There are two places which are believed the place of Shepherd’s Fields. The first site is a Catholic Church with early Byzantine stone mosaic and the second belongs is a small Greek Orthodox Church, with walls covered by icons showing the lives of saints.
The Al Khader Village:
The village of al- Khader, St. George in English, is located south of Bethlehem. In the center of the village there is the beautiful Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, whose image signifies the protection for Palestinian Christians.
The pools, which are named after King Solomon (around 950 BC), are located south of Bethlehem and consist of three large water reservoirs made of stone, which has supplied the area with water for centuries.
Near the pools is a complex ancient water system, initially built around 100 BCE and ca. 30 CE. the system provided water to the city of Jerusalem, as well as to the Herodium. At that time the pools were fed by two aqueducts, by several springs of the surrounding countryside including one situated underneath the lower pool as well as by rainwater that descended from the hills.
The pools acted as a storage and distribution facility, with the two feeder aqueducts bringing water to the pools from hills to the south. The collected water was then distributed by two other aqueducts leading from the pools northwards to Jerusalem, plus another one heading eastwards to the Herodium. The ruins of the initial aqueducts have been found. Below the middle pool are the ruins of the British pump station that took the water by pipe to the Old City of Jerusalem. Another, more recent pumping station below the lower pool is still providing water to the town of Bethlehem.
Near the Upper Pool lies a small Turkish fort with four square corner towers. It was built by the Ottoman Sultan Osman II in 1618 and is known either as Qal’at el-Burak (the “tower of the pools”), or as Qal’at Murad (the “tower of Sultan Murad”). It served as barracks for the Turkish soldiers guarding the Pools of Solomon and the commercial caravans between Jerusalem and Hebron, as well as a staging post on the local hajj route to Mecca. For a long time, it was also used as a caravanserai or khan. The tower was left to ruins in the middle of the 19th century. However, the ruined fortress was rebuilt and developed as part of a new tourist complex on the site.
Hebron (al Khalil in Arabic)
Christians, Muslims and Jews all revere the city of Hebron, which is located 30 km south of Jerusalem, for its association with Abraham. The burial site of the biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs are found within the Cave of the Patriarchs in the Abrahamic mosque. Jews rank Hebron as the second-holiest city after Jerusalem, while Muslins regards it as one of the four holy cities.
The focal point of Hebron for most visitors is to The Ibrahimi Mosque (Ibrahim is the Muslim name for Abraham) to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
Archaeological excavations reveal traces of ruins dating to the Early Bronze Age around the area of Tel Rumeida. In the 17th–18th centuries BCE the city thrived before being destroyed by fire, and was resettled in the late Middle Bronze Age. This older Hebron was originally a Canaanite royal city. Abrahamic legend links the city with the Hittites. Hebron hills were devoid of settlements in the Late Bronze Age. The Abrahamic traditions connected with Hebron are nomadic.
The Glass Factory in Hebron
Hebron is famous for its glass making and the Glass Factory, which lies on the outskirts of Hebron on the main road, is one of them main attractions in the city. It has been in the Natsheh family for 350 years. Visitors can observe glassmakers fire and blow everything from wine glasses to ornate colored bottles in the ceramic kiln.
The Monastery of the Trinity with the Church of the Holy Forefathers at Abraham’s
The Metochion or Monastery of the Trinity with the Church of the Holy Forefathers at Abraham’s Oak in Hebron (the Russian Monastery):
The only Christian Holy site in Hebron, this Russian Orthodox monastery was founded in the 20th century on the site of the ancient Oak of Mamre in a very special architectural style, shaped like a crucifix. The lands were acquired by Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin) for the Russian Church in the 19th century and later expanded.
Its location is distinct and at a distance of several kilometres from that of Mamre, the site of the terebinth or oak of Abraham described by Josephus, surrounded with an enclosure by Herod the Great, and where Constantine the Great built a basilica in the 4th century. The “Oak of Abraham” situated on the grounds of the Russian compound described in this article owes its veneration to a newer tradition, which appeared sometime between the mid-12th century and the 19th century.
Beer Sheba (Bir al Sabe’):
The largest city in the Negev desert, it is often referred to as the “Capital of the Negev”.
There are several etymologies for the origin of the name “Beersheba”. The oath of Abraham and Abimelech (well of the oath) is the one stated in Genesis 21:31. Others include the seven wells dug by Isaac (seven wells) though only three or four have been identified; the oath of Isaac and Abimelech (well of the oath in Genesis 26:33); the seven lambs that sealed Abraham and Abimelech’s oath (well of the seven).
According to the Biblical story, Beersheba was founded when Abraham and Abimelech settled their differences over a well of water and made an agreement when Abimelech’s men had taken the well from Abraham after he had previously dug it so Abraham brought sheep and cattle to Abimelech to get the well back. He set aside seven lambs to swear that it was he that had dug the well and no one else. Abimelech conceded that the well belonged to Abraham and, in the Bible, Beersheba means “Well of Seven” or “Well of the Oath”. In Arabic it’s also translated as “seven wells” or more commonly as “lion’s well”.
Isaac built an altar in Beersheba Jacob had his dream about a stairway to heaven after leaving Beersheba. Beersheba was the territory of the tribe of Simeon and Judah the sons of the prophet Samuel who were judges in there. Saul, Israel’s first king, built a fort there for his campaign against the Amalekites. The prophet Elijah took refuge in Beersheba when Jezebel ordered him killed. The prophet Amos mentions the city in regard to idolisation Following the Babylonian conquest and enslavement of many Israelites, the town was abandoned. After the Israelite slaves returned from Babylon, they resettled the town. According to the Hebrew Bible, Beersheba was the southernmost city of the territories settled by Israelites, hence the expression “from Dan to Beersheba” to describe the whole kingdom. Zibiah, the consort of King Ahaziah of Judah and the mother of King Jehoash of Judah, was from Beersheba. Human settlement in the area dates from the Copper Age its inhabitants lived in caves, making metal tools and raising cattle. Findings unearthed at Tel Be’er Sheva, an archaeological site east of modern-day Beersheba, suggest the region has been inhabited since the 4th millennium BC. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries.
During the Palestine Mandate, Beersheba was a major administrative center. The British constructed a railway between Rafah and Beersheba in October 1917; it opened to the public in May 1918, serving the Negev and settlements south of Mount Hebron.