Story of Bethlehem, the city of Jesus

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The story of Bethlehem, a Palestinian city of ancient origin and nobility, so much so that, according to two Gospels, it was also the birthplace of Jesus

The words of Ibn Battuta

“From Hebron I left for Jerusalem and along the way I visited the tomb of Jonah, on which a large building and a mosque were built, and also Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. Here are still the famous remains of the palm trunk, around which a large building has risen which Christians venerate with great respect and where travelers find hospitality. “

Canaanites, Jews and Romans

The first written records date back to 1400 BC. and are contained in some texts found in Amarna, the city founded by the legendary pharaoh Akhenaten; however, between 2013 and 2015 tombs dating back to 2200 BC were found here. . The first settlement was certainly Canaanite and is supposed to have originally been born as a temple to the Akkadian goddess of fertility Lahmu; according to this theory, therefore, the settlement was born as an offshoot of the place of prayer, to which a Philistine fortress was later added. A curiosity: over the centuries the name always remained the same, but it varied in meaning under each domination; in fact, if the original name meant “House of Lahmu”, in Hebrew it means “House of bread” and in Arabic “House of meat”. With the end of the Egyptian New Kingdom, this territory passed to the Tribe of Judah and, according to tradition, was the birthplace of the prophet David, the legendary king of Israel.


According to the Gospel of Luke and Matthew, Jesus was born here, however according to the Gospel of Mark and John he was originally from Nazareth; however, there were many Christians who came here on pilgrimage since time immemorial and, right above the legendary cave, the empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, had the Church of the Nativity built. The latter will be destroyed during the Samaritan Revolts between the end of the 5th century and the first years of the 6th century, and was then rebuilt by the Emperor Justinian.

Arabs, Ottomans and Palestinians

In 614 it was briefly conquered by the Sassanids, then passing into Arab hands starting from 637, the year in which Jerusalem was taken. In 1099 it was conquered by the Crusaders, being liberated in 1187 by Saladin the Great. Together with Jerusalem, Sidon and Nazareth, in 1229 it was ceded for 10 years to Frederick II of Swabia, king of Sicily and close friend of the then sultan al Kalil. In 1517 it will pass, like all of today’s Palestine, to the Ottoman Empire, with which it will live long centuries of peace and prosperity until 1841, when due to unemployment, high taxes and military draft, many inhabitants found themselves forced to emigrate, especially choosing Chile and South America as a new homeland.


With the collapse of the Sublime Porte, all of Palestine will pass under the British mandate, which in 1947 will organize its partition, placing Bethlehem, together with Jerusalem, under the administration of the United Nations; however in 1948 it was captured by the Jordanian army, since then linking its fortunes to those of the West Bank. The exodus of new Palestinian migrants will make this city, historically a Christian center, a Muslim majority. After the Six Day War it will be occupied militarily by the Israeli army which will withdraw from here only in 1991; to underline how Bethlehem and its surroundings are among the areas in which the Zionist colonization and one of the most obvious and boundless, with new Israeli settlements constantly rising.

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