Bethlehem’s Top Attraction
One of the most popular tours to Israel is to the city of Bethlehem. This sacred Christian city is one of the top things to do in Israel. Visitors usually choose to take an organized tour to Bethlehem rather than traveling independently due to the fact that Bethlehem is in the West Bank. Reaching Bethlehem involves crossing a border and heightened awareness of security. The Church of the Nativity is Bethlehem’s top attraction and one of the most popular places to visit in Israel.
Site of the Nativity, Bethlehem
The Church of the Nativity marks the place believed to be where Jesus was born. It was on this spot that the nativity story unfolded. Arriving in Bethlehem for a national census Joseph and the pregnant Mary found no room available. Eventually they
were offered to spend the night in an inn keeper’s manger where he kept his animals.
In the 1st century animals were often kept in caves near or behind the family home. For this reason the “manger” which is encompassed by the Church of the Nativity is in fact a grotto. People often envision the manger as a barn and are surprised to find that it was a small cave or grotto. In the heart of the Church of the Nativity is the Sacred Grotto. A silver star marks the site on the ancient stone floor within the grotto.
History of the Nativity Site
Miraculously the church was not destroyed when the land came under the rule of the Persians and later Muslim rulers. During the Crusader era of the 11th century Baldwin I and II were crowned in the Church of the Nativity. Under the Crusaders the church was renovated and redecorated. The church remained untouched under the Mamluks and Ottomans although precious marble was removed by the Ottomans for use in construction on Temple Mount. Today the church is shared by the Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Churches.