An extract on #bestvacations
The earliest known mention of the city was in the Amarna correspondence of 13501330 BCE during its habitation by the Canaanites. The Hebrew Bible, which says that the city of Bethlehem was built up as a fortified city by Rehoboam, identifies it as the city David was from and where he was crowned as the king of Israel. The New Testament identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem was destroyed by the Emperor Hadrian during the second-century Bar Kokhba revolt; its rebuilding was promoted by Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who commissioned the building of its great Church of the Nativity in 327 CE. The church was badly damaged by the Samaritans, who sacked it during a revolt in 529, but was rebuilt a century later by Emperor Justinian I.
Bethlehem became part of Jund Filastin following the Muslim conquest in 637. Muslim rule continued in Bethlehem until its conquest in 1099 by a crusading army, who replaced the town's Greek Orthodox clergy with a Latin one. In the mid-13th century, the Mamluks demolished the city's walls, which were subsequently rebuilt under the Ottomans in the early 16th century. Control of Bethlehem passed from the Ottomans to the British at the end of World War I. Bethlehem came under Jordanian rule during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and was later captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Since the 1995 Oslo Accords, Bethlehem has been administered by the Palestinian Authority.
Bethlehem now has a Muslim majority, but is still home to a significant Palestinian Christian community. Bethlehem's chief economic sector is tourism, which peaks during the Christmas season when Christians make pilgrimage to the Church of the Nativity, as they have done for almost 2,000 years. Bethlehem has over 30 hotels and 300 handicraft workshops. Rachel's Tomb, an important Jewish holy site, is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem.
Tourism is Bethlehem's main industry. Unlike other Palestinian localities prior to 2000, the majority of the employed residents did not have jobs in Israel. More than 20% of the working population is employed in the industry. Tourism accounts for approximately 65% of the city's economy and 11% of the Palestinian National Authority. The city has more than two million visitors every year.
The Church of the Nativity is one of Bethlehem's major tourist attractions and a magnet for Christian pilgrims. It stands in the center of the city a part of the Manger Square over a grotto or cave called the Holy Crypt, where Jesus is believed to have been born. Nearby is the Milk Grotto where the Holy Family took refuge on their Flight to Egypt and next door is the cave where St. Jerome spent thirty years creating the Vulgate, the dominant Latin version of the Bible until the Reformation.
There are over thirty hotels in Bethlehem. Jacir Palace, built in 1910 near the church, is one of Bethlehem's most successful hotels and its oldest. It was closed down in 2000 due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but reopened in 2005 as the Jacir Palace InterContinental at Bethlehem.