Bethlehem Arabic: بيت لحم Bayta Laḥm, “House of Meat”; Hebrew: בֵּית לֶחֶם Bet Leḥem, Hebrew pronunciation: , “House of Bread”; Ancient Greek: Βηθλεέμ Greek pronunciation; Latin: Bethleem; initially named after Canaanite fertility god Lehem) is a city located in the central West Bank, Palestine, about 10 km (6.2 miles) south of Jerusalem. Its population is approximately 25,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate. The economy is primarily tourist-driven, peaking during the Christmas season, when Christians make pilgrimage to the Church of the Nativity.Rachel’s Tomb, an important Jewish holy site, is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem.
The earliest known mention of Bethlehem was in the Amarna correspondence of 1350–1330 BCE when the town was inhabited 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 Gospels of Matthew and Luke identify 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 Following an influx of refugees as a result of Israeli advances in the 1967 war, Bethlehem has a Muslim majority, but is still home to a significant Palestinian Christian community. It is now encircled and encroached upon by dozens of Israeli settlements and the Israeli West Bank barrier, which separates both Muslim and Christian communities from their land and livelihoods, and sees a steady exodus of those from both communities being driven out.