What is Bethlehem like today?
Bethlehem is the very site where Jesus was born, where Christianity spread throughout the world, and where thousands of tourists come each year to worship and walk where Jesus walked. Just 10 km (6 mi) south of Jerusalem, Bethlehem is located in the West Bank of the Palestinian Territories.
No longer a small village of shepherds, the broader Bethlehem Area supports a population of approximately 177,000 people in its major city metropolis of Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour and the surrounding rural areas. In the modern city of Bethlehem, approximately half of the population is Muslims and half Christians.
The city of Bethlehem is highly impacted by today’s political unrest and conflict. Due to Israeli occupation, Bethlehem residents have lost thousands of dunums of land for the purposes of Israeli settlement construction and the building of the separation wall. Political violence during the 2nd Intifada and the continual loss of land have created a desperate economic situation in the city of Bethlehem, which has an unemployment rate of 22.4%, the highest in the West Bank.
Who are Palestinian Christians?
Palestinian Christians trace their origins back to the time of Jesus and have had an uninterrupted presence in the Holy Land since this time. In recent history, the population of Palestinian Christians has decreased dramatically. In 1931, Christians were roughly 9% of the total population. Today, Christians are less than 2% of the total population in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The primary reason for this dramatic decline is the persistent Palestinian and Israeli conflict.
Watch this video from CBS’s 60 minutes to learn more.
Is it safe to visit Bethlehem?
Yes, it is safe to visit Bethlehem. In the past few years, thousands of tourists have visited Bethlehem. Although, in the past, Bethlehem was the scene of violent confrontation; this is no longer the case. In fact, we highly encourage tourists to come to Bethlehem. You will meet friendly people, enjoy traditional Palestinian culture, eat great food, and see some of the most famous Christian sites, such as The Church of the Nativity, Shepherd’s Fields, and Solomon’s Pools. When asked, many tourists claim they feel safer in Bethlehem than at home in their native countries.