Bethlehem

Bethlehem (/ˈbɛθlɪhɛm/; Arabic: بيت لحمBayt Lahm Arabic pronunciation: [beːt.laħm], "House of Meat"; Hebrew: בֵּית לֶחֶםBet Lehem, Hebrew pronunciation: [bet ˈleχem], "House of Bread"; Ancient Greek: Βηθλεέμ Greek pronunciation: [bɛːtʰle.ém]; Latin: Bethleem; initially named after Canaanite fertility god Lehem[3]) is a Palestinian city located in the central West Bank, Palestine, about 10 km (6.2 miles) south of Jerusalem. Its population is approximately 25,000 people.[4][5] It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate. The economy is primarily tourist-driven.[6][7]

The earliest known mention of the city was in the Amarna correspondence of 1350–1330 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,[8] 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.[9] 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.[9]

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.[10] Rachel's Tomb, an important Jewish holy site, is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem.

Bethlehem
Other transcription(s)
 • Arabicبيت لحم
 • Also spelledBeit Lahm (official)
Bayt Lahm (unofficial)
 • Hebrewבֵּית לֶחֶם
Bethlehem skyline from Church of the Nativity
Bethlehem skyline from Church of the Nativity
Bethlehem is located in the Palestinian territories
Bethlehem
Bethlehem
Location of Bethlehem within Palestine
Coordinates: 31°42′11″N 35°11′44″E / 31.70306°N 35.19556°ECoordinates: 31°42′11″N 35°11′44″E / 31.70306°N 35.19556°E
GovernorateBethlehem
Founded1400 BCE (est.)
Government
 • TypeCity (from 1995)
 • Head of MunicipalityAnton Salman[1]
Area
 • Jurisdiction10,611 dunams (10.611 km2 or 4.097 sq mi)
Population
(2007[2])
 • Jurisdiction25,266
Name meaningHouse of Meat (Arabic); House of Bread (Hebrew & Aramaic)
Websitewww.bethlehem-city.org

History

Canaanite period

The earliest reference to Bethlehem appears in the Amarna correspondence (c. 1400 BCE). In one of his six letters to Pharaoh, Abdi-Heba, Egypt's governor for Jerusalem, appeals for aid in retaking Bit-Laḫmi in the wake of disturbances by Apiru mercenaries:[11] "Now even a town near Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi by name, a village which once belonged to the king, has fallen to the enemy ... Let the king hear the words of your servant Abdi-Heba, and send archers to restore the imperial lands of the king!"

It is thought that the similarity of this name to its modern forms indicates that this was a settlement of Canaanites who shared a Semitic cultural and linguistic heritage with the later arrivals.[12] Laḫmu was the Akkadian god of fertility,[13] worshipped by the Canaanites as Leḥem. Some time in the third millennium BCE, Canaanites erected a temple on the hill now known as the Hill of the Nativity, probably dedicated to Lehem. The temple, and subsequently the town that formed around it, would then have been known as Beyt Leḥem, "House (Temple) of Lehem". The Philistines later established a garrison there.[3]

Biblical scholar William F. Albright noted that the pronunciation of the name remained essentially the same for 3,500 years, but has meant different things: "'Temple of the God Lakhmu' in Canaanite, 'House of Bread' in Hebrew and Aramaic, 'House of Meat' in Arabic."

A burial ground discovered in spring 2013, and surveyed in 2015 by a joint Italian-Palestinian team found that the necropolis covered 3 hectares (more than 7 acres) and originally contained more than 100 tombs in use between roughly 2200 B.C. and 650 B.C. The archaeologists were able to identify at least 30 tombs.[14]

Israelite and Judean period

Archaeological confirmation of Bethlehem as a city in the Kingdom of Judah was uncovered in 2012 at the archaeological dig at the City of David in the form of a bulla (seal impression in dried clay) in ancient Hebrew script that reads "From the town of Bethlehem to the King," indicating that it was used to seal the string closing a shipment of grain, wine, or other goods sent as a tax payment in the 8th or 7th century BCE.[15]

Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bibel in Bildern 1860 106
David, pouring out water drawn from the well of Bethlehem in this 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld, which illustrates 2 Samuel 23:15-17

Biblical scholars believe Bethlehem, located in the "hill country" of Judah, may be the same as the Biblical Ephrath,[16] which means "fertile", as there is a reference to it in the Book of Micah as Bethlehem Ephratah.[17] The Bible also calls it Beth-Lehem Judah,[18] and the New Testament describes it as the "City of David".[19] It is first mentioned in the Tanakh and the Bible as the place where the matriarch Rachel died and was buried "by the wayside" (Gen. 48:7). Rachel's Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem. According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moab gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. It was the home of Jesse,[20] father of King David of Israel, and the site of David's anointment by the prophet Samuel.[21] It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam.[22]

Writing in the 4th century, the Pilgrim of Bordeaux reported that the sepulchers of David, Ezekiel, Asaph, Job, Jesse, and Solomon were located near Bethlehem.[23] There has been no corroboration of this.

Classical period

Gerard van Honthorst - Adoration of the Shepherds (1622)
Adoration of the Shepherds (1622) by the Dutch painter Gerard van Honthorst. According to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus was born in Bethlehem.[24][25][26]

The Gospel of Matthew 1:18–2:23 and the Gospel of Luke 2:1–39 represent Jesus as having been born in Bethlehem.[24][25][26] Modern scholars, however, regard the two accounts as contradictory[25][26] and the Gospel of Mark, the earliest gospel, mentions nothing about Jesus having been born in Bethlehem, saying only that he came from Nazareth.[26] Nonetheless, the tradition that Jesus was born in Bethlehem was prominent in the early church.[24] In around 155, the apologist Justin Martyr recommended that those who doubted Jesus was really born in Bethlehem could go there and visit the very cave where he was supposed to have been born.[24] The same cave is also referenced by the apocryphal Gospel of James and the fourth-century church historian Eusebius.[24] After the Bar Kokhba revolt (c. 132–136 CE) was crushed, the Roman emperor Hadrian converted the Christian site above the Grotto into a shrine dedicated to the Greek god Adonis, to honour his favourite, the Greek youth Antinous.[27][28]

In around 395 CE, the Church Father Jerome wrote in a letter: "Bethlehem... belonging now to us... was overshadowed by a grove of Tammuz, that is to say, Adonis, and in the cave where once the infant Christ cried, the lover of Venus was lamented."[29] Many scholars have taken this letter as evidence that the cave of the nativity over which the Church of the Nativity was later built had at one point been a shrine to the ancient Near Eastern fertility god Tammuz.[29][30] Eusebius, however, mentions nothing about the cave having been associated with Tammuz[29] and there are no other Patristic sources that suggest Tammuz had a shrine in Bethlehem.[29] Peter Welten has argued that the cave was never dedicated to Tammuz[29] and that Jerome misinterpreted Christian mourning over the Massacre of the Innocents as a pagan ritual over Tammuz's death.[29] Joan E. Taylor has countered this contention by arguing that Jerome, as an educated man, could not have been so naïve as to mistake Christian mourning over the Massacre of the Innocents as a pagan ritual for Tammuz.[29]

In 326–328, the empress Helena, consort of the emperor Constantius Chlorus, and mother of the emperor Constantine the Great, made a pilgrimage to Syra-Palaestina, in the course of which she visited the ruins of Bethlehem.[9][24] The Church of the Nativity was built at her initiative over the cave where Jesus was purported to have been born.[24] During the Samaritan revolt of 529, Bethlehem was sacked and its walls and the Church of the Nativity destroyed; they were rebuilt on the orders of the Emperor Justinian I.[9][24] In 614, the Persian Sassanid Empire, supported by Jewish rebels, invaded Palestina Prima and captured Bethlehem. A story recounted in later sources holds that they refrained from destroying the church on seeing the magi depicted in Persian clothing in a mosaic.[9]

Middle Ages

1698 de Bruijin View of Bethlehem, Palestine (Israel, Holy Land) - Geographicus - Bethlehem-bruijn-1698
1698 sketch by Cornelis de Bruijn

In 637, shortly after Jerusalem was captured by the Muslim armies, 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb, the second Caliph, promised that the Church of the Nativity would be preserved for Christian use.[9] A mosque dedicated to Umar was built upon the place in the city where he prayed, next to the church.[31] Bethlehem then passed through the control of the Islamic caliphates of the Umayyads in the 8th century, then the Abbasids in the 9th century. A Persian geographer recorded in the mid-9th century that a well preserved and much venerated church existed in the town. In 985, the Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi visited Bethlehem, and referred to its church as the "Basilica of Constantine, the equal of which does not exist anywhere in the country-round."[32] In 1009, during the reign of the sixth Fatimid Caliph, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, the Church of the Nativity was ordered to be demolished, but was spared by local Muslims, because they had been permitted to worship in the structure's southern transept.[33]

In 1099, Bethlehem was captured by the Crusaders, who fortified it and built a new monastery and cloister on the north side of the Church of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox clergy were removed from their sees and replaced with Latin clerics. Up until that point the official Christian presence in the region was Greek Orthodox. On Christmas Day 1100, Baldwin I, first king of the Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem, was crowned in Bethlehem, and that year a Latin episcopate was also established in the town.[9]

In 1187, Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria who led the Muslim Ayyubids, captured Bethlehem from the Crusaders. The Latin clerics were forced to leave, allowing the Greek Orthodox clergy to return. Saladin agreed to the return of two Latin priests and two deacons in 1192. However, Bethlehem suffered from the loss of the pilgrim trade, as there was a sharp decrease of European pilgrims.[9] William IV, Count of Nevers had promised the Christian bishops of Bethlehem that if Bethlehem should fall under Muslim control, he would welcome them in the small town of Clamecy in present-day Burgundy, France. As a result, the Bishop of Bethlehem duly took up residence in the hospital of Panthenor, Clamecy, in 1223. Clamecy remained the continuous 'in partibus infidelium' seat of the Bishopric of Bethlehem for almost 600 years, until the French Revolution in 1789.[34]

Bethlehem, along with Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Sidon, was briefly ceded to the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem by a treaty between Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil in 1229, in return for a ten-year truce between the Ayyubids and the Crusaders. The treaty expired in 1239, and Bethlehem was recaptured by the Muslims in 1244.[35] In 1250, with the coming to power of the Mamluks under Rukn al-Din Baibars, tolerance of Christianity declined. Members of the clergy left the city, and in 1263 the town walls were demolished. The Latin clergy returned to Bethlehem the following century, establishing themselves in the monastery adjoining the Basilica of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox were given control of the basilica and shared control of the Milk Grotto with the Latins and the Armenians.[9]

Ottoman era

Bethlehem Polenov
A painting of Bethlehem by Vasily Polenov, 1882
Bethlehem 1898
View of Bethlehem, Christmas Day 1898

From 1517, during the years of Ottoman control, custody of the Basilica was bitterly disputed between the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.[9] By the end of the 16th century, Bethlehem had become one of the largest villages in the District of Jerusalem, and was subdivided into seven quarters.[36] The Basbus family served as the heads of Bethlehem among other leaders during this period.[37] The Ottoman tax record and census from 1596 indicates that Bethlehem had a population of 1,435, making it the 13th largest village in Palestine at the time. Its total revenue amounted to 30,000 akce.[38]

Bethlehem paid taxes on wheat, barley and grapes. The Muslims and Christians were organized into separate communities, each having its own leader. Five leaders represented the village in the mid-16th century, three of whom were Muslims. Ottoman tax records suggest that the Christian population was slightly more prosperous or grew more grain than grapes (the former being a more valuable commodity).[39]

From 1831 to 1841, Palestine was under the rule of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty of Egypt. During this period, the town suffered an earthquake as well as the destruction of the Muslim quarter in 1834 by Egyptian troops, apparently as a reprisal for the murder of a favored loyalist of Ibrahim Pasha.[40] In 1841, Bethlehem came under Ottoman rule once again and remained so until the end of World War I. Under the Ottomans, Bethlehem's inhabitants faced unemployment, compulsory military service, and heavy taxes, resulting in mass emigration, particularly to South America.[9] An American missionary in the 1850s reported a population of under 4,000, nearly all of whom belonged to the Greek Church. He also noted that a lack of water crippled the town's growth.[41]

Socin found from an official Ottoman village list from about 1870 that Bethlehem had a population of 179 Muslims in 59 houses, 979 "Latins" in 256 houses, 824 "Greeks" in 213 houses, and 41 Armenians in 11 houses, a total of 539 houses. The population count included men, only.[42] Hartmann found that Bethlehem had 520 houses.[43]

Modern era

Bethlehem was administered by the British Mandate from 1920 to 1948.[44] In the United Nations General Assembly's 1947 resolution to partition Palestine, Bethlehem was included in the special international enclave of Jerusalem to be administered by the United Nations.[45] Jordan captured the city during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[46] Many refugees from areas captured by Israeli forces in 1947–48 fled to the Bethlehem area, primarily settling in what became the official refugee camps of 'Azza (Beit Jibrin) and 'Aida in the north and Dheisheh in the south.[47] The influx of refugees significantly transformed Bethlehem's Christian majority into a Muslim one.[48]

Jordan retained control of the city until the Six-Day War in 1967, when Bethlehem was captured by Israel, along with the rest of the West Bank. Following the Six-Day War, Israel took control of the city. In 1995, Israel turned it over to the Palestinian National Authority in accordance with the Oslo peace accord.

Die Mauer von Bethlehem
Israeli West Bank barrier in Bethlehem in 2012

Today, the city is surrounded by two bypass roads for settlers, leaving the inhabitants squeezed between 37 Jewish enclaves, where a quarter of all West Bank settlers, roughly 170,000, live, and the gap between the two roads closed by the 8-metre high Israeli West Bank barrier, which cuts Bethlehem off from its sister city Jerusalem.[49]

Palestinian control

On December 21, 1995, Israeli troops withdrew from Bethlehem,[50] and three days later the city came under the complete administration and military control of the Palestinian National Authority in conformance with the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1995.[51] During the Second Palestinian Intifada in 2000–2005, Bethlehem's infrastructure and tourism industry were damaged.[52][53] In 2002, it was a primary combat zone in Operation Defensive Shield, a major military counteroffensive by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).[54] During the counteroffensive, the IDF besieged the Church of the Nativity, where dozens of Palestinian militants had sought refuge. The siege lasted for 39 days. Several militants were killed. It ended with an agreement to exile 13 of the wanted militants to various foreign countries.[55]

Geography

Bethlehem is located at an elevation of about 775 meters (2,543 ft) above sea level, 30 meters (98 ft) higher than nearby Jerusalem.[56] Bethlehem is situated on the southern portion in the Judean Mountains.

The city is located 73 kilometers (45 mi) northeast of Gaza City and the Mediterranean Sea, 75 kilometers (47 mi) west of Amman, Jordan, 59 kilometers (37 mi) southeast of Tel Aviv, Israel and 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) south of Jerusalem.[57] Nearby cities and towns include Beit Safafa and Jerusalem to the north, Beit Jala to the northwest, Husan to the west, al-Khadr and Artas to the southwest, and Beit Sahour to the east. Beit Jala and the latter form an agglomeration with Bethlehem. The Aida and Azza refugee camps are located within the city limits.[58]

In the center of Bethlehem is its old city. The old city consists of eight quarters, laid out in a mosaic style, forming the area around the Manger Square. The quarters include the Christian an-Najajreh, al-Farahiyeh, al-Anatreh, al-Tarajmeh, al-Qawawsa and Hreizat quarters and al-Fawaghreh — the only Muslim quarter.[59] Most of the Christian quarters are named after the Arab Ghassanid clans that settled there.[60] Al-Qawawsa Quarter was formed by Arab Christian emigrants from the nearby town of Tuqu' in the 18th century.[61] There is also a Syriac quarter outside of the old city,[59] whose inhabitants originate from Midyat and Ma'asarte in Turkey.[62] The total population of the old city is about 5,000.[59]

Climate

Bethlehem has a Mediterranean climate, with hot and dry summers and mild, wetter winters. Winter temperatures (mid-December to mid-March) can be cool and rainy. January is the coldest month, with temperatures ranging from 1 to 13 degree Celsius (33–55 °F). From May through September, the weather is warm and sunny. August is the hottest month, with a high of 30 degrees Celsius (86 °F). Bethlehem receives an average of 700 millimeters (28 in) of rainfall annually, 70% between November and January.[63]

Bethlehem's average annual relative humidity is 60% and reaches its highest rates between January and February. Humidity levels are at their lowest in May. Night dew may occur in up to 180 days per year. The city is influenced by the Mediterranean Sea breeze that occurs around mid-day. However, Bethlehem is affected also by annual waves of hot, dry, sandy and dust Khamaseen winds from the Arabian Desert, during April, May and mid-June.[63]

Climate data for Bethlehem
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 12
(54)
13
(55)
16
(61)
22
(72)
26
(79)
28
(82)
30
(86)
30
(86)
28
(82)
26
(79)
20
(68)
14
(57)
22
(72)
Average low °C (°F) 5
(41)
5
(41)
7
(45)
10
(50)
14
(57)
17
(63)
19
(66)
19
(66)
17
(63)
15
(59)
11
(52)
7
(45)
12
(54)
Average rainy days 12 11 9 4 2 0 0 0 0 3 7 11 59
Average snowy days 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3
Source: myweather2.com[64]

Demographics

Population

Year Population
1867 3,000–4,000[65]
1945 8,820[66][67]
1961 22,453[68]
1983 16,300[69]
1997 21,930[70]
2007 25,266[70]
Bethlehem-Manger-Square
The Mosque of Omar (Umar), built in 1860 to commemorate the Caliph Umar's visit to Bethlehem

According to Ottoman tax records, Christians made up roughly 60% of the population in the early 16th century, while the Christian and Muslim population became equal by the mid-16th century. However, there were no Muslim inhabitants counted by the end of the century, with a recorded population of 287 adult male tax-payers. Christians, like all non-Muslims throughout the Ottoman Empire, were required to pay the jizya tax.[36] In 1867, an American visitor describes the town as having a population of 3,000 to 4,000; of whom about 100 were Protestants, 300 were Muslims and "the remainder belonging to the Latin and Greek Churches with a few Armenians."[65] Another report from the same year puts the Christian population at 3,000, with an additional 50 Muslims.[71] An 1885 source put the population at approximately 6,000 of "principally Christians, Latins and Greeks" with no Jewish inhabitants.[72]

In 1948, the religious makeup of the city was 85% Christian, mostly of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations, and 13% Muslim.[73] In the 1967 census taken by Israel authorities, the town of Bethlehem proper numbered 14,439 inhabitants, its 7,790 Muslim inhabitants represented 53.9% of the population, while the Christians of various denominations numbered 6,231 or 46.1%.[74]

In the PCBS's 1997 census, the city had a population of 21,670, including a total of 6,570 refugees, accounting for 30.3% of the city's population.[70][75] In 1997, the age distribution of Bethlehem's inhabitants was 27.4% under the age of 10, 20% from 10 to 19, 17.3% from 20–29, 17.7% from 30 to 44, 12.1% from 45–64 and 5.3% above the age of 65. There were 11,079 males and 10,594 females.[70] In the 2007 PCBS census, Bethlehem had a population of 25,266, of which 12,753 were males and 12,513 were females. There were 6,709 housing units, of which 5,211 were households. The average household consisted of 4.8 family members.[2]

Christian population

Bethlehem4
Four Bethlehem Christian women, 1911

After the Muslim conquest of the Levant in the 630s, the local Christians were Arabized even though large numbers were ethnically Arabs of the Ghassanid clans.[76] Bethlehem's two largest Arab Christian clans trace their ancestry to the Ghassanids, including al-Farahiyyah and an-Najajreh.[76] The former have descended from the Ghassanids who migrated from Yemen and from the Wadi Musa area in present-day Jordan and an-Najajreh descend from Najran.[76] Another Bethlehem clan, al-Anatreh, also trace their ancestry to the Ghassanids.[76]

The percentage of Christians in the town has been in a steady decline since the mid-twentieth century.[73][77][78][79] In 1947, Christians made up 85% of the population, but by 1998 the figure had declined to 40%.[73][77] In 2005, the mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh explained that "due to the stress, either physical or psychological, and the bad economic situation, many people are emigrating, either Christians or Muslims, but it is more apparent among Christians, because they already are a minority."[80] The Palestinian Authority is officially committed to equality for Christians, although there have been incidents of violence against them by the Preventive Security Service and militant factions.[81][82] In 2006, the Palestinian Centre for Research and Cultural Dialogue conducted a poll among the city's Christians according to which 90% said they had had Muslim friends, 73.3% agreed that the PNA treated Christian heritage in the city with respect and 78% attributed the exodus of Christians to the Israeli blockade.[83] The only mosque in the Old City is the Mosque of Omar, located in the Manger Square.[31] By 2016, the Christian population of Bethlehem had declined to only 16%.[78]

A study by Pew Research Center concluded that the decline in the Arab Christian population of the area was partially a result of a lower birth rate among Christians than among Muslims,[78][84] but also partially due to the fact that Christians were more likely to emigrate from the region than any other religious group.[78][85] Amon Ramnon, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, stated that the reason why more Christians were emigrating than Muslims is because it is easier for Arab Christians to integrate into western communities than for Arab Muslims, since many of them attend church-affiliated schools, where they are taught European languages.[78] A higher percentage of Christians in the region are urban-dwellers, which also makes it easier for them to emigrate and assimilate into western populations.[78] A statistical analysis of the Christian exodus cited lack of economic and educational opportunity, especially due to the Christians' middle-class status and higher education.[86] Since the Second Intifada, 10% of the Christian population have left the city.[80] However, it is likely that there are many other factors, most of which are shared with the Palestinian population as a whole.[87]

Economy

Shopping is a major attraction, especially during the Christmas season. The city's main streets and old markets are lined with shops selling Palestinian handicrafts, Middle Eastern spices, jewelry and oriental sweets such as baklawa.[88] Olive wood carvings [89] are the item most purchased by tourists visiting Bethlehem.[90] Religious handicrafts include ornaments handmade from mother-of-pearl, as well as olive wood statues, boxes, and crosses.[89] Other industries include stone and marble-cutting, textiles, furniture and furnishings.[91] Bethlehem factories also produce paints, plastics, synthetic rubber, pharmaceuticals, construction materials and food products, mainly pasta and confectionery.[91]

Cremisan Wine, founded in 1885, is a winery run by monks in the Monastery of Cremisan. The grapes are grown mainly in the al-Khader district. In 2007, the monastery's wine production was around 700,000 liters per year.[92]

In 2008, Bethlehem hosted the largest economic conference to date in the Palestinian territories. It was initiated by Palestinian Prime Minister and former Finance Minister Salam Fayyad to convince more than a thousand businessmen, bankers and government officials from throughout the Middle East to invest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A total of 1.4 billion US dollars was secured for business investments in the Palestinian territories.[93]

Tourism

Pope Francis visit Bethlehem
Pope Francis in Bethlehem, 25 May 2014

Tourism is Bethlehem's main industry.[79][52] Unlike other Palestinian localities prior to 2000, the majority of the employed residents did not have jobs in Israel.[52] More than 20% of the working population is employed in the industry.[94] Tourism accounts for approximately 65% of the city's economy and 11% of the Palestinian National Authority.[95] The city has more than two million visitors every year.[94] Tourism in Bethlehem ground to a halt for over a decade after the Second Intifada,[79] but gradually began to pick back up in the early 2010s.[79]

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.[9]

There are over thirty hotels in Bethlehem.[10] 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.[96]

Religious significance and commemoration

Birthplace of Jesus

Jesus birthplace in Bethlehem
Silver star marking the place where Jesus was born according to Christian tradition

Early Christian traditions describe Jesus as being born in Bethlehem: in one, a verse in the Book of Micah is interpreted as a prophecy that the Messiah would be born there.[97] The New Testament has two different accounts of the birth. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus' parents live in Nazareth and travel for the Census of Quirinius to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born, after which they return home.[19] The Gospel of Matthew mentions Bethlehem but not the census.[98] Told that a 'King of the Jews' has been born in the town, Herod orders the killing of all the boys aged two and under in the town and surrounding area. Joseph, warned of by an angel of the Lord, flees to Egypt with his family; the Holy Family later settles in Nazareth.

Bethlehem Christmas2
Catholic procession on Christmas Eve, 2006
Christmas tree, Bethlehem
Christmas tree in Bethlehem, behind it Church of the Nativity, 2014

Many modern scholars question the idea that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, seeing the biblical stories not as historical accounts but as symbolic narratives invented to present the birth as fulfillment of prophecy and imply a connection to the lineage of King David.[99][100][101][102][103] The Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John do not include a nativity narrative, but refer to him only as being from Nazareth.[104] In a 2005 article in Archaeology magazine, archaeologist Aviram Oshri points to an absence of evidence for the settlement of Bethlehem near Jerusalem at the time when Jesus was born, and postulates that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Galilee.[105] In a 2011 article in Biblical Archaeology Review magazine, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor argues for the traditional position that Jesus was born in Bethlehem near Jerusalem.[106]

The existence of early traditions of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem is attested by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr, who stated in his Dialogue with Trypho (c. 155–161) that the Holy Family had taken refuge in a cave outside of the town.[107] Origen of Alexandria, writing around the year 247, referred to a cave in the town of Bethlehem which local people believed was the birthplace of Jesus.[108] This cave was possibly one which had previously been a site of the cult of Tammuz.[109]

Christmas celebrations

Bethlehem Christmas pilgrims enter town 1890
Christmas pilgrims, 1890

Christmas rites are held in Bethlehem on three different dates: December 25 is the traditional date by the Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations, but Greek, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 6 and Armenian Orthodox Christians on January 19. Most Christmas processions pass through Manger Square, the plaza outside the Basilica of the Nativity. Roman Catholic services take place in St. Catherine's Church and Protestants often hold services at Shepherds' Fields.[110]

Other religious festivals

Bethlehem celebrates festivals related to saints and prophets associated with Palestinian folklore. One such festival is the annual Feast of Saint George (al-Khadr) on 5–6 May. During the celebrations, Greek Orthodox Christians from the city march in procession to the nearby town of al-Khader to baptize newborns in the waters around the Monastery of St. George and sacrifice a sheep in ritual.[111] The Feast of St. Elijah is commemorated by a procession to Mar Elias, a Greek Orthodox monastery north of Bethlehem.

Culture

Embroidery

Bethlehem woman edited
Woman in traditional Bethlehem costume

The women embroiderers of Bethlehem were known for their bridalwear.[112] Bethlehem embroidery was renowned for its "strong overall effect of colors and metallic brilliance."[113] Less formal dresses were made of indigo fabric with a sleeveless coat (bisht) from locally woven wool worn over top. Dresses for special occasions were made of striped silk with winged sleeves with a short taqsireh jacket known as the Bethlehem jacket. The taqsireh was made of velvet or broadcloth, usually with heavy embroidery.[112]

Bethlehem work was unique in its use of couched gold or silver cord, or silk cord onto the silk, wool, felt or velvet used for the garment, to create stylized floral patterns with free or rounded lines. This technique was used for "royal" wedding dresses (thob malak), taqsirehs and the shatwehs worn by married women. It has been traced by some to Byzantium, and by others to the formal costumes of the Ottoman Empire's elite. As a Christian village, local women were also exposed to the detailing on church vestments with their heavy embroidery and silver brocade.[112]

Mother-of-pearl carving

The art of mother-of-pearl carving is said to have been a Bethlehem tradition since the 15th century when it was introduced by Franciscan friars from Italy.[114] A constant stream of pilgrims generated a demand for these items, which also provided jobs for women.[115] The industry was noted by Richard Pococke, who visited Bethlehem in 1727.[116]

Cultural centers and museums

Workers in mother-of-pearl2
Craftsmen working with mother-of-pearl, early 20th century

Bethlehem is home to the Palestinian Heritage Center, established in 1991. The center aims to preserve and promote Palestinian embroidery, art and folklore.[117] The International Center of Bethlehem is another cultural center that concentrates primarily on the culture of Bethlehem. It provides language and guide training, woman's studies and arts and crafts displays, and training.[7]

The Bethlehem branch of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music has about 500 students. Its primary goals are to teach children music, train teachers for other schools, sponsor music research, and the study of Palestinian folklore music.[118]

Bethlehem has four museums: The Crib of the Nativity Theatre and Museum offers visitors 31 3D models depicting the significant stages of the life of Jesus. Its theater presents a 20-minute animated show. The Badd Giacaman Museum, located in the Old City of Bethlehem, dates back to the 18th century and is primarily dedicated to the history and process of olive oil production.[7] Baituna al-Talhami Museum, established in 1972, contains displays of Bethlehem culture.[7] The International Museum of Nativity was built by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to exhibit "high artistic quality in an evocative atmosphere".[7]

Local government

Bethlehem-hamasrally
A Hamas rally in Bethlehem

Bethlehem is the muhfaza (seat) or district capital of the Bethlehem Governorate.

Bethlehem held its first municipal elections in 1876, after the mukhtars ("heads") of the quarters of Bethlehem's Old City (excluding the Syriac Quarter) made the decision to elect a local council of seven members to represent each clan in the town. A Basic Law was established so that if the victor for mayor was a Catholic, his deputy should be of the Greek Orthodox community.[119]

Throughout, Bethlehem's rule by the British and Jordan, the Syriac Quarter was allowed to participate in the election, as were the Ta'amrah Bedouins and Palestinian refugees, hence ratifying the number of municipal members in the council to 11. In 1976, an amendment was passed to allow women to vote and become council members and later the voting age was increased from 21 to 25.[119]

There are several branches of political parties on the council, including Communist, Islamist, and secular. The leftist factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Palestinian People's Party (PPP) usually dominate the reserved seats. Hamas gained the majority of the open seats in the 2005 Palestinian municipal elections.[120]

Mayors

In the October 2012 municipal elections, Fatah member Vera Baboun won, becoming the first female mayor of Bethlehem.[121]

  • Mikhail Abu Saadeh – 1876
  • Khalil Yaqub – 1880
  • Suleiman Jacir – 1884
  • Issa Abdullah Marcus – 1888
  • Yaqub Khalil Elias – 1892
  • Hanna Mansur – 1895–1915
  • Salim Issa al-Batarseh – 1916–17
  • Salah Giries Jaqaman – 1917–21
  • Musa Qattan – 1921–25
  • Hanna Ibrahim Miladah – 1926–28
  • Nicoloa Attalah Shain – 1929–1933

Education

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), in 1997, approximately 84% of Bethlehem's population over the age of 10 was literate. Of the city's population, 10,414 were enrolled in schools (4,015 in primary school, 3,578 in secondary and 2,821 in high school). About 14.1% of high school students received diplomas.[124] There were 135 schools in the Bethlehem Governorate in 2006; 100 run the Education Ministry of the Palestinian National Authority, seven by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and 28 were private.[125]

Bethlehem is home to Bethlehem University, a Catholic Christian co-educational institution of higher learning founded in 1973 in the Lasallian tradition, open to students of all faiths. Bethlehem University is the first university established in the West Bank, and can trace its roots to 1893 when the De La Salle Christian Brothers opened schools throughout Palestine and Egypt.[126]

Transportation

Bethlehem-street2
A street in Bethlehem

Bethlehem has three bus stations owned by private companies which offer service to Jerusalem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Hebron, Nahalin, Battir, al-Khader, al-Ubeidiya and Beit Fajjar. There are two taxi stations that make trips to Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, Jerusalem, Tuqu' and Herodium. There are also two car rental departments: Murad and 'Orabi. Buses and taxis with West Bank licenses are not allowed to enter Israel, including Jerusalem, without a permit.[127]

The Israeli construction of the West Bank barrier has affected Bethlehem politically, socially, and economically. The barrier is located along the northern side of the town's built-up area, within m of houses in 'Aida refugee camp on one side, and the Jerusalem municipality on the other.[52] Most entrances and exits from the Bethlehem agglomeration to the rest of the West Bank are currently subjected to Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks. The level of access varies based on Israeli security directives. Travel for Bethlehem's Palestinian residents from the West Bank into Jerusalem is regulated by a permit-system.[128] Palestinians require a permit to enter the Jewish holy site of Rachel's Tomb. Israeli citizens are barred from entering Bethlehem and the nearby biblical Solomon's Pools.[52]

Twin towns and sister cities

Bethlehem is twinned with:[129][130][131]

See also

References

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Bibliography

External links

Bethlehem, Connecticut

Bethlehem is a town in Litchfield County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 3,422 at the 2000 census. The town center was designated in the 2000 census as a census-designated place (CDP).

The town's name has prompted thousands of visitors each December to mail their Christmas cards at the local post office in order to get a "Bethlehem" postmark. The post office also has nearly 100 Christmas-related stamps for customers to decorate their envelopes during the holiday season.Bethlehem is one of the two towns in Litchfield County served by the area code 203/area code 475 overlay. The other is the Town of Woodbury.

Bethlehem, Free State

Bethlehem is a large town in the eastern Free State province of South Africa that is situated on the Liebenbergs river (also called Liebenbergs Vlei) along a fertile valley just north of the Rooiberg Mountains on the N5 road.It is the fastest growing town in the Free state province, with its target of being the Fourth largest city after Kroonstad in balance.

It is a wheat growing area and named after the biblical Bethlehem (from "Beit Lechem", Hebrew for "house of bread").The town lies at an altitude of 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) and this contributes to its cool climate with frosty winters and mild summers. The average annual temperature is around 24 °C (75 °F)

Bethlehem is situated approximately 240 kilometres (150 mi) north-east of Bloemfontein, 140 kilometres (87 mi) east of Kroonstad and 90 kilometres (56 mi) west of Harrismith. The town is strategically situated in the heart of the picturesque north-eastern Free State and originally developed as a service centre. Bethlehem is the seat of the Dihlabeng Local Municipality (this municipality is situated within the boundaries of the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality in the Eastern Free State).

The township associated with Bethlehem is called Bohlokong, named after the hloko/bohloko grass Diheteropogon filifolius.

Bethlehem, New York

Bethlehem is a town in Albany County, New York, USA. The town's population was 33,656 at the 2010 census. Bethlehem is located immediately to the south of the City of Albany. Bethlehem includes the following hamlets: Delmar, Elsmere, Glenmont, North Bethlehem, Selkirk, Slingerlands, and South Bethlehem. U.S. Route 9W passes through the town. The town is named after the biblical Bethlehem.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Bethlehem is a city in Lehigh and Northampton counties in the Lehigh Valley region of the eastern portion of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 74,982, making it the seventh largest city in Pennsylvania, after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Reading, and Scranton. Of this, 55,639 were in Northampton County, and 19,343 were in Lehigh County.

Bethlehem lies in the center of the Lehigh Valley, a region of 731 sq mi (1,890 km2) that is home to more than 800,000 people. Together with Allentown and Easton, the Valley embraces the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ metropolitan area, including Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon counties within Pennsylvania, and Warren County in the adjacent state of New Jersey. Smaller than Allentown but larger than Easton, Bethlehem is the Lehigh Valley's second most populous city. In turn, this metropolitan area comprises Pennsylvania's third-largest metropolitan area and the state's largest and most populous contribution to the greater New York City metropolitan area.

There are four general sections of the city: central Bethlehem, the south side, the east side, and the west side. Each of these sections blossomed at different times in the city's development and each contains areas recognized under the National Register of Historic Places. ZIP codes that use the address Bethlehem totaled 116,000 in population in the year 2000. These ZIP codes include Bethlehem Township and Hanover Township.

The Norfolk Southern Railway's Lehigh Line (formerly the main line of the Lehigh Valley Railroad), runs through Bethlehem heading east to Easton, Pennsylvania and Phillipsburg, New Jersey across the Delaware River. The Norfolk Southern Railway's Reading Line runs through Bethlehem heading west to Allentown and Reading.

In July 2006, Money magazine placed Bethlehem as number 88 on its "Top 100 Best Places to Live."

Bethlehem, West Virginia

Bethlehem is a village in Ohio County, West Virginia, United States. It is part of the Wheeling, West Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 2,499 at the 2010 census.

Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation

Bethlehem Steel Corporation Shipbuilding Division was created in 1905 when the Bethlehem Steel Corporation of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, acquired the San Francisco shipyard Union Iron Works. In 1917 it was incorporated as Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Limited; otherwise known as BethShip.Headquarters were in Quincy, Massachusetts, after acquiring the Fore River Shipyard in 1913, and later in Sparrows Point, Maryland, southeast of Baltimore, Maryland, in formerly rural/now suburban Baltimore County, (acquired 1916), in 1964.

In 1940, it was number 1 of the "Big Three" U.S. shipbuilders who could build any ship. Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock and New York Shipbuilding Corporation (New York Ship) were #2 and #3. Bethlehem had 4 yards in early 1940: Fore River, Sparrows Point, San Francisco, and Staten Island. Bethlehem expanded during World War II as a result of the Emergency Shipbuilding program administered under the United States Maritime Commission.

The Quincy / Fore River yard was later sold to General Dynamics Corporation in the mid-1960s, and closed in 1986. The Alameda Works Shipyard in California was closed by Bethlehem Steel in the early 1970s, while the San Francisco facility (former Union Iron Works) was sold to British Aerospace in the mid-1990s and survives today as BAE Systems San Francisco Ship Repair.

Bethlehem Steel ceased shipbuilding activities in 1997 in an attempt to preserve its core steel making operations.

Bethlehem Steel

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation (commonly called Bethlehem Steel) was a steel and shipbuilding company that began operations in 1904 and was America's second-largest steel producer and largest shipbuilder.

The Bethlehem Steel roots trace back to 1857 with the establishment of the Bethlehem Iron Company; the Bethlehem Iron Company (also known as Bethlehem Iron Works or simply Bethlehem Iron) was established as the Saucona Iron Company and ceased operations in 1901. However, the Bethlehem Steel legacy began in 1899 with the formation of the first Bethlehem Steel, the Bethlehem Steel Company which was two years before the Bethlehem Iron Company ceased operations. The Bethlehem Steel Company (also known as Bethlehem Steel Works) leased all properties from the Bethlehem Iron Company from 1899 to 1901 and assumed ownership of all properties from the Bethlehem Iron Company after the Bethlehem Iron Company ceased operations.

The Bethlehem Steel Company became the primary subsidiary company of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1904. The Bethlehem Steel Company is the first Bethlehem Steel while the Bethlehem Steel Corporation is the second Bethlehem Steel; both companies existed simultaneously after 1904, but the Bethlehem Steel Company was eventually merged into the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in the 1960s.

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation (using the Bethlehem Steel Company) and the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, which was also a Bethlehem Steel Corporation subsidiary, were two of the most powerful symbols of American industrial manufacturing leadership. Their demise is often cited as one of the most prominent examples of the U.S. economy's shift away from industrial manufacturing, its failure to compete with cheap foreign labor, and management's penchant for short-term profits.

After a decline in the American steel industry and other problems leading to the company's bankruptcy in 2001, the Bethlehem Steel Corporation was dissolved and the remaining assets sold to International Steel Group in 2003; Bethlehem Steel Corporation did not merge with/into International Steel Group.

Bethlehem Steel FC

Bethlehem Steel FC is an American professional soccer team based in Chester, Pennsylvania. Founded in 2015, the team plays in the USL Championship as the official affiliate of the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer. Its colors are navy blue, gold, and red. Brendan Burke is the head coach.

Bethlehem Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania

Bethlehem Township is a township in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, United States. Bethlehem Township is located in the Lehigh Valley region of the state and is a suburb of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It falls within the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area, as defined by the United States Office of Management and Budget.

The population of Bethlehem Township was 23,730 at the 2010 census.

Bethlehemites

Bethlehemites, or Bethlemites, is the name of four Catholic religious orders. One of them has recently been restored to existence. The other two are extinct.

Bethlem Royal Hospital

Bethlem Royal Hospital, also known as St Mary Bethlehem, Bethlehem Hospital and Bedlam, is a psychiatric hospital in London. Its famous history has inspired several horror books, films and TV series, most notably Bedlam, a 1946 film with Boris Karloff.

The hospital is closely associated with King's College London and, in partnership with the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, is a major centre for psychiatric research. It is part of the King's Health Partners academic health science centre and the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health.

Originally the hospital was near Bishopsgate just outside the walls of the City of London. It moved outside of Moorfields in the 17th century, then to St George's Fields in Southwark in the 19th century, before moving to its current location at Monks Orchard in West Wickham in 1930.

The word "bedlam", meaning uproar and confusion, is derived from the hospital's nickname. Although the hospital became a modern psychiatric facility, historically it was representative of the worst excesses of asylums in the era of lunacy reform.

James Charles (model)

James Charles Dickinson (born May 23, 1999), known as James Charles, is an American internet personality, makeup artist, and model. In 2016 he became the first male ambassador for CoverGirl.

Lehigh Valley

The Lehigh Valley (), known officially by the United States Census Bureau and the United States Office of Management and Budget as the Allentown–Bethlehem–Easton, PA–NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area and referred to colloquially as The Valley, is a metropolitan region officially consisting of Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties in eastern Pennsylvania and Warren county on the western edge of New Jersey, in the Eastern United States. The Lehigh Valley's largest city, with a population of 120,443, is Allentown.The region is a part of the larger New York City metropolitan area, but borders the Philadelphia metropolitan area. All of the region, except Warren County, New Jersey, is part of Philadelphia's designated media market.

The Lehigh Valley is the third most populous Metropolitan Statistical Area in the state of Pennsylvania with a population of 821,173 residents as of the 2010 U.S. Census. The region is eclipsed in total population in Pennsylvania only by the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metropolitan areas. It is the 64th most populated metropolitan area in the United States. Lehigh County, the Valley's largest county in terms of overall population, is among the fastest growing in the state and, as of 2010–2012, ranks in the 79th percentile for population growth nationally. The core population centers are located in southern and central Lehigh and Northampton counties along U.S. Route 22 and Interstate 78. The Lehigh Valley is proximate to two of the nation's largest cities: New York City, which is about 75 miles to its east, and Philadelphia, which is 50 miles to its southeast.

In March 2014, the Lehigh Valley was recognized by Site Selection Magazine as the second-best performing region of its size for economic development in the United States. It was also ranked by Fortune in May 2015 as being among the top 10 best places in the U.S. to locate corporate finance and information technology operations for companies, such as call centers and IT support. Allentown, the region's largest city, was cited as a "national success story" in April 2016 by the Urban Land Institute for its downtown redevelopment and transformation, one of only six communities nationwide to achieve this distinction.

Massacre of the Innocents

In the New Testament, the Massacre of the Innocents is the incident in the nativity narrative of the Gospel of Matthew in which Herod the Great, king of Judea, orders the execution of all male children two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem. Most modern biographers of Herod, and probably a majority of biblical scholars, dismiss Matthew's story as an invention. The Church has claimed the children murdered in Jesus's stead as the first Christian martyrs, and their feast – Holy Innocents Day – is celebrated on 28 December.

National Register of Historic Places listings in Northampton County, Pennsylvania

This is a list of the National Register of Historic Places listings in Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

This is intended to be a complete list of the properties and districts on the National Register of Historic Places in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, United States.

There are 57 properties and districts listed on the National Register in the county, including 4 sites designated as National Historic Landmarks.

This National Park Service list is complete through NPS recent listings posted February 15, 2019.

Northampton County, Pennsylvania

Northampton County is a county located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 297,735. Its county seat is Easton. The county was formed in 1752 from parts of Bucks County. Its namesake was Northamptonshire and the county seat of Easton is named for the country house Easton Neston.

Northampton County is included in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA Combined Statistical Area. Its northern edge borders The Poconos, and its eastern section borders the Delaware River, which divides Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Northampton County also borders the Delaware Valley and is included in Philadelphia's Media Market

The county is industrially-oriented, producing cement, and other industrial products. Bethlehem Steel, once one of the world's largest manufacturers of steel, was located there prior to its closing in 2003.

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem is a hotel and casino located in the Bethlehem Works development site in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania, in the United States.

The casino is owned, operated, and constructed by the Las Vegas Sands corporation. It is one of five stand-alone casinos that was awarded a slots license by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on December 20, 2006. The casino was slated to open in July 2008, but demolition took longer than expected due to the heavy concrete foundations of the old steel building. Its opening was delayed until the second quarter of 2009. The first concrete for the complex, which is located on the former Bethlehem Steel land on the South side of the city, was poured on November 15, 2007.

The casino opened May 22, 2009. In the winter of 2009–2010, the casino was granted a license for table games which allowed the casino to expand to include 180 table games of Poker, Blackjack and Craps. Table games began operation on July 18, 2010. The Sands Hotel opened on May 27, 2011.

The Sands Bethlehem was the only property in the company to end 2014 with a profit, doing better than Sands' Vegas and Asia properties.

Star of Bethlehem

The Star of Bethlehem, or Christmas Star, appears only in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew, where "wise men from the East" (Magi) are inspired by the star to travel to Jerusalem. There they meet King Herod of Judea, and ask, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" We have come to pay homage to the newborn king of the Jews. Herod calls his scribes and priests who quote to him that a verse from the Book of Micah interpreted as a prophecy, states that the Jewish Messiah would be born in Bethlehem to the south of Jerusalem. Secretly intending to find and kill the Messiah in order to preserve his own kingship, Herod invites the wise men to return to him on their way home.

The star leads them to Jesus' home in the town, where they worship him and give him gifts. The wise men are then given a divine warning not to return to Herod, so they return home by a different route.Many Christians believe the star was a miraculous sign. Some theologians claimed that the star fulfilled a prophecy, known as the Star Prophecy. Astronomers have made several attempts to link the star to unusual celestial events, such as a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, a comet, or a supernova.Some modern scholars do not consider the story to be describing a historical event but a pious fiction created by the author of the Gospel of Matthew.The subject is a favorite at planetarium shows during the Christmas season, although the account describes Jesus with a broader Greek word παιδίου, which can mean either "infant" or "child" (paidion), rather than the more specific word for infant (brephos), possibly implying that some time has passed since the birth. The visit is traditionally celebrated on Epiphany (January 6) in Western Christianity.

The Express-Times

The Express-Times is a daily newspaper based in Easton, Pennsylvania, with an emphasis on local news in the Lehigh Valley.

The paper has won awards in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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