Birth place of both King David and, a thousand years later, Jesus, Bethlehem is a few kilometers south of Jerusalem. At its northern entrance is the Tomb of Rachel who died giving birth to Benjamin “and was buried on the way to Ephrata which is Bethlehem” (Gen. 35:19). A large stone overlaid with an embroidered velvet covering marks the place of the tomb.
When built in the Crusader period, the present shrine was open on all four sides. Walled up during the Ottoman period it was open only to Moslem visitors until it was purchased by Moses Montefiore in 1841. A vestibule was added and the site was open to worshippers of all faiths. Today it is protected by a sturdy wall.
While there are no archaeological excavations to indicate the birth place of David, a star in the Grotto of Nativity in the Byzantine Church of the Nativity marks the spot where Jesus was born and an altar marks the site of the manger where the infant lay (Luke 2:7).
Adjoining the Orthodox Church is the Catholic Church of St. Catherine built over the caves in which St. Jerome lived. Close by is the Milk Grotto where a drop of milk fell while Mary was feeding Jesus causing the white colour of the chalk walls.
In the surrounding fields, where the shepherds grazed their flocks, there is a Greek Orthodox Church and a modern tent-shaped Franciscan chapel decorated with scenes from the early life of Jesus.
Text content copyrights: Bein Harim Ltd., Beryl Ratzer (www.ratzer.com)
Other sites in this area