The city of Bethlehem passes from Israeli to Palestinian control.
Bethlehem is a small city located some 10 km south of the Old City of Jerusalem within the West Bank, in an “Area A” zone administered by the Palestinian Authority.
The “little town” of Bethlehem, mentioned in any number of Christmas carols, attracts pilgrims worldwide on account of its description in the New Testament as the birthplace of Jesus, whom Christians believe to be Messiah and Son of God. The Church of the Nativity, one of the oldest churches in the world, is the focus of Christian veneration within the city.
Bethlehem is revered by Jews as the birthplace and home town of David, King of Israel, as well as the traditional site of Rachel’s Tomb.
Although also home to many Muslims, Bethlehem remains home to one of the largest Arab Christian communities in the Middle Eastand one of the chief cultural and tourism drawcards for the community. The Bethlehem agglomeration also includes the small towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, the latter also having biblical significance.
Building up to the Millennium in the year 2000, Bethlehem underwent a massive largely foreign-funded project called Bethlehem 2000 in hopes of turning Bethlehem into a major tourist destination comparable to destinations such as Jerusalem or Tel Aviv in tourism infrastructure. Unfortunately a year later, the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occurred and the ensuing violence scuttled these tourism efforts. With the Palestinian uprising and violent clashes between both sides now have been over and done with for quite a few years, violence is now a thing of the past and many in Bethlehem hope to continue on where Bethlehem 2000 started them off.