Bethlehem is a city located about 9 km south of Jerusalem and nestled in the hills of Judea. Since December 1995, it is administered by the Palestinian Authority with a population of 25,266 inhabitants, half being Muslims and half Christians, mostly Orthodox.
The city has great religious significance for Christians and Muslims, since its according to the Bible, the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. It is also an important place of pilgrimage for Jews, who worship Rachel’s Tomb at the entrance of the city and for the city’s birthplace and coronation of King David.
According to Jewish tradition the population belonged to the tribe of Judah and the city is the birthplace of King David, and another great character argued as his descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, where the prophets had foretold that the Messiah would be born. Precisely the birth of Jesus is in Bethlehem because Joseph of Nazareth, Mary’s husband, was a descendant of David.
When you think of Bethlehem, you probably think about Christmas! In December you will experience processions passing through Manger Square, located opposite to the Basilica of the Nativity and Roman Catholic festivals take place in the Saint Catherine Church. Other common religious celebrations in Bethlehem are festivals related to saints and prophets related to Palestinian folklore.
Matthew 2:1 – Wise Men from the East
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem.
Jesus’ prayer in the garden is commemorated every year on Holy Thursday: After the Last Supper, Jesus went to the garden, where he used to meet with his disciples to pray. According to the Gospels it was a place that both Jesus and his disciples would frequently visit and this allowed for Judas to find him there.
The word Gethsemane means “oil press” (referring to olive oil). Apparently there was a lot of olive trees surrounding the area in those days. All the Gospels refer in one way or another to this place.
In the garden, next to the hollow and twisted trunks of the oldest olive trees you will find new trees, replacing the cypress trees and other plants that were used in the nineteenth century, for decoration of the Holy Sepulchre.
Currently, you’ll find 8 of the oldest olive trees, with trunks whose diameter exceeds in some cases three meters. In the garden you’ll see the olive tree planted by Pope Paul VI on January 4, 1964, during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”