Beit Lehem is the Hebrew word for “House of Bread.” In English, the town is now called Bethlehem. In Arabic it is pronounced “Bayt Lahm” and means “House of Meat.” Beit Lehem is a Palestinian city in the center of the West Bank. It is about six miles south of Jerusalem. Beit Lehem is fairly large and important. Over 30,000 citizens call Beit Lehem home, and it is the hub of the Palestinian culture as well as the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority.
It is the general consensus that Beit Lehem was the birthplace of Jesus Christ. As a result, Beit Lehem was home of one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, though emigration has shrunk it a bit. Jesus Christ isn’t the only Biblical person born in Beit Lehem. David, from the Old Testament, was also born there, and it was the location of his coronation as King of Israel.
The main market sector in Beit Lehem is tourism. Christians come from all over the world to see the birthplace of Jesus Christ, especially at Christmas. Beit Lehem even has a “Church of the Nativity” to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. In addition, it has over 30 hotels and hundreds of handicraft workshops for travelers to take mementos home to recall their travel through the Holy Land.
Beit Lehem is known for the olive wood carvings that the locals make from the olive groves growing in the Mediterranean climate. It also has a famous winery called Cremisan Wine. The wine is produced by the monks living at the Monastery of Cremisan.
Beit Lehem is mention in the Amarna letters as early as 1400 BC. The King of Jerusalem asks the King of Egypt for help in regaining control of “Bit-Lahmi.” Since neither Arabs nor Jews had arrived in the city, it is thought that the similarity in the name indicates that Beit Lehem was a settlement of Canaanites, who shared the Semitic language with the arriving Jews.
Two Biblical accounts, Matthew and Luke, indicate that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, or Beit Lehem. Though both of his parents were from Nazareth, Jesus Christ’s parents traveled to Beit Lehem for a census. He was born during the time of the census.
In 529 CE, the Samaritans sacked Beit Lehem during their revolt. It was rebuilt during the Byzantine era by Emperor Justinian the First. It was then conquered by the Arab Caliphate in 637. He promised safety for the religious shrines located in Beit Lehem. Crusaders then captured Beit Lehem and replaced its Greek Orthodox clergy with Latin ones. Within the continually turbulent atmosphere, the city was captured by Egypt, and the Latin clergy were expelled. Then again in 1250, the Mamluks demolished Beit Lehem’s walls, which were rebuilt in the Ottoman Empire.
During WWI, the British regained control of the birth city of Jesus Christ. Through the years following, the Palestinians, Jordanians and the Israelis all occupied Beit Lehem. However, sing 1995, the Palestinian National Authority has governed Bethlehem.
Beit Lehem Key Verse:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem. (Matthew 2:1)