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Bethlehem

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Travel Guide Middle East Israel Bethlehem

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Introduction

As the Birth Place of Christ, the ancient town of Bethlehem holds a connection with Christians from all around the World. While small in size and population, the town of Bethlehem and its surroundings have lots to offer to any visitor or tourists. At the heart of the town lies the Church of the Nativity. Inside the church is the Grotto of the nativity marking the spot where Jesus was born. Since the establishment of the PA in 1994, there has been a fast amount of development and restoration work throughout the town. A large number of tourism establishments such as hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops have been opened and are ready to serve all travel needs.

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Sights and Activities

  • Herodion - Located some 10 kilometres east of Bethlehem are the remains of the magnificent Palace of Herod the Great. Named Herodion after its builder, Herod, the Palace was built in towards the end of the first century BC as a fortified castle with palace in the inside. The Arabic name, Jabal Al Freidees is derived from the Arabic word “fardous” a word referring to the magnificent garden that was built at the foot of the hill. A lavish and luxurious palace in its day, a city of round walls and a fort enclosing apartments, baths and a beautiful garden.
  • Solomons Pools - Located some 3 kilometres south of Bethlehem near the village of Artas you can visit the Solomon Pools which are the closest perennial springs to Jerusalem at an altitude above that of the city hence it once provided one of the oldest and most reliable water supplies. The three rectangular shaped pools / cisterns can hold up to 116,000 cubic meters of water. Partly excavated from rock and partly built, these huge reservoirs collected spring and rain water and pumped into to Bethlehem and as far as Jerusalem using the sheer force of gravity. Adjacent to the pools lie the remains of an ancient Ottoman fort set in a beautiful grove of pine and cypress trees. The actual reservoirs were in use up until 1946.
  • Artas - Just south of Bethlehem, near the Solomon’s Pool lies the village of Artas (or Urtas) which is by far one of the best-known West Bank villages. The name Artas originates from hortus, the Latin for “garden" because it is believed to be the site of hortus conclusus, Solomon’s erotic Canticle or Song of Songs: “Thou art like a garden enclosed, my sister, my spouse, like a sealed fountain. Thy plantations are a paradise of delights." Because of its proximity to Jerusalem and because of its scenery and its historical allusiveness, Europeans in the 19th century adopted Artas as a summer retreat. The Europeans in fact were the ones who introduced or re-introduced horticulture to the valley. In 1894, the Italian Order of the Sisters of Mary of the Gadren built the Hortus Conclusus Convent in Artas. Another must attraction in the Village is the Artas Folklore Museum on the north side of the valley which features implements, past and present, of village culture. Finally, every year in April, the Artas Folklore Center organizes the annual Lettuce Festival which features traditional dance and music and is a must see for any visitor.
  • Church and Grotto of the Nativity - And she gave birth to her first born son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger because there was place for them in the inn. Luke 2:7. The Church of the Nativity lies in the center of Bethlehem on Manger Square. It is one of the oldest working Church in existence today. The first Church was built by the Roman Emperor Constantine back in the fourth century A.D. over the Grotto where Mary gave birth to Jesus. Constantine and his mother Helena, built a magnificent and majestic church adorned with beautiful marble and mosaics.

To know more about the sights and attractions in Bethlehem visit the visitpalestine website.

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Events and Festivals

  • Artas Lettuce Festival - Since its debut back in 1994, the annual Lettuce Festival which takes place in the beautiful village of Artas just south of Bethlehem near Solomon;s Pools brings locals and visitors together in a joyful festival celebrating and honoring the eternal Palestinian peasant. Organized by the Artas Folklore Center is truly an experience as you get the chance to interact with the living stones of this ancient land and experience the hospitality and culture of Palestinian in real life.

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Getting There

By Bus

Egged Buses has connections with other cities and towns in Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

There is an Arab bus station nearby Damascus Gate that goes to various West Bank Palestinian cities (if you have trouble finding the bus station, ask a local). Arab bus 21 runs from the Arabic bus station nearby the Damascus Gate ("Bab el-'Amoud") in East Jerusalem via Beit Jala to Bethlehem. The average trip length is 30 minutes and costs ₪7. This route takes you straight into Bethlehem without needing to stop at a checkpoint (someone might come to check your passport on the bus, but it's painless). After you cross the border, tell the driver where you're headed and he'll let you know what the best stop is to get off (maybe about 10 minutes after entering the border). From there you can either cab to the main area (Manger Square, Church of Nativity), or just walk.
Shared taxis (sherut/servees) leave from the Arab bus station nearby Damascus Gate and manage the trip in 20 minutes.
Minibus 24 also leaves from the Arab Bus Station near Damascus Gate, it costs ₪5 and runs directly to the Bethlehem Checkpoint and back. Make sure to bring a passport. It may also be the case that you are waved through without any inspection. From the checkpoint, you can either walk half an hour or take a taxi to the center of Bethlehem (25 shekels), which is about 3 kilometres away.

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Eat

To see where to eat click where to eat.

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Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Bustan Qaraaqabeit Hanna Saad, Waddi Hanna Saad Beit SahourHostel-
House Of PeaceBethlehemHostel86

To know where to stay see the list.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Israel is a technologically advanced society, and internet cafés are widely available in most cities and towns. The regular price for paid internet cafés is about 15 shekels per hour but you can get it for about 10 shekels in some of the more local places. Free Wi-Fi access is common in cafés (check individual articles). All branches of 'Aroma Espresso Bar', 'Arcaffe', 'Café Café', 'McDonalds' and 'Yellow' convenience stores have free Wi-Fi access, though in some you will have to approach the staff for a password.

Recently, the "Jerusalem Wi-Fi" project started. This government started project aims to cover the entire Jerusalem area with Wi-Fi although at the moment the only areas covered are in the city center. A similar project has started in Tel Aviv and in Karmiel in the north. Some other cities are following suit.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The international country code for Israel is 972. Emergency numbers include 100 (police), 101 (ambulance) and 102 (fire). 112 is supported in mobile networks.

Currently Israel offers support for all the available networks including GSM/UMTS (Pelephone, Cellcom and Orange), CDMA (Pelephone) and iDen (Hot Mobile). In any case, you must check with your carrier about the roaming option and the compatibility of your device in advance. A valid suggestion otherwise is to turn off data services.

You can rent a cellphone for use in Israel either before your trip or once you arrive from several firms. You can also rent smartphones with sim cards included sometimes for lower than the cost of renting just a sim card. Vendors such as Israel Phone Rentalsoffer the advantages of a sim card rental without having to worry about bringing your own phone to Israel. If you have a GSM cellphone without a SIM-lock, you can buy a SIM-card. Prepaid SIM cards are available at Pelephone (Talk & Go), Cellcom (Talk Man) and Orange (Bigtalk) phone stores throughout Israel. Almost all shopping malls will have a Pelephone, Cellcom or Orange kiosk or store.

There are many public phones scattered around. Public phones can be always found at hotels, post offices, central bus stations and train stations. These phones use a Telecard, which, today, is a pre-paid calling card that works only with pay phones and can be purchased at post offices and some stores, as well as ordinary calling cards. Some phones also accept credit cards, usually those in hotels and post offices.

Post

The Israel Post is the national postal service of Israel and generally has fast, reliable and affordable services. Efficiency means that letters and postcards send by airmail just take about 3-7 days within Europe, a few days more to the USA and Australia. Express Mail Services (EMS) is available, with which you are guaranteed to have the postcard or letter delivered within 72 hours anywhere in the world. You can buy stamps at post offices, or newspaper stands/kiosks or some souvenir shops and hotels. The main post offices are usually open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Sunday to Thursday and 8:00am to 2:00pm on Friday, though some might keep longer hours. Branch offices and post offices in smaller towns keep shorter hours, usually with a break from 12:30pm to 3:30pm, and on Wednesday and Friday only during the morning. Parcels can be send by the regular post offices or with companies like TNT, UPS, FedEx and DHL.

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This is version 21. Last edited at 7:39 on Jun 30, 14 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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