Located about five miles south of Jerusalem, Bethlehem or Beit Lechem (Hebrew for House of Bread), is one of the oldest cities in Israel and the famous birth place of our savior Yahshua Messiah. In early times, it was called by another name, EPHRATH or EPHRATAH.
Today, the city of Bethlehem lies behind the Israeli West Bank Barrier which is a 26ft (8m) high wall spanning a distance around 310 Miles (500KM) around the West Bank, separating it from Jerusalem. Whenever entering into Bethlehem, it literally feels like you’re passing into a different country because you have to go through a border/passport control that is heavily guarded and gated. It is actually quite sad that this famous and special city has resulted to this, but the wall is completely necessary, as it has decreased Palestinian terrorist attacks in that area by 90%.
A Winter Night I Will Never Forget
I remember the first time I was able to visit Bethlehem. I participated in a five-month ambassadorship course with my congregation and we were going to go have lunch with some of the Palestinian Christian families that resided inside Bethlehem. Our purpose of the visit was to hear the some of the stories and issues that the families faced on a daily basis. The experience was to last the whole day visiting both Palestinian and Jewish families and seeing a few of the famous sites. We decided to camp out in a local Bedouin tent just outside of Jerusalem and leave early the next morning. Being the first week of January, it was an extremely cold night for most of us and we even woke up to frost on the ground in the morning. Now, if you remember the biblical account of Messiah’s birth in Luke Chapter 2, it stated that the shepherds were sleeping in the fields when the angel appeared to them, telling them that the Messiah had been born. The fact that it was this cold only one week after the holiday season and, stays that way for most of the winter season, proves that it would have been far too frigid outside for the shepherds, the sheep and especially a new born baby. I have even witnessed Bethlehem and Jerusalem get several inches of snow during the winter season. Due to this logical reasoning and other facts, it has been proven that Messiah was indeed born sometime in the fall, around the biblical Jewish feast of Trumpets that occur around the October/September months.
These fields are one the most famous places in all of Bethlehem because of the famous story of our Messiah’s birth. The area consists of various limestone caves with many underground tunnels interlinking each other and above them are beautiful fields and farmland. One of the churches has a display inside showing what an original manger would have looked like in the days of Yahshua. This is no different than a simple cave (the church is basically a cave too), symbolizing that Messiah was born to die, because when He died he was placed back into a cave (tomb). It is important to remember there are churches on the grounds and modest attire is recommended and respectful. The town also has many other different places to visit, but most of the other religious sites were setup according to church traditions and have no other real biblical precedent. To me, the shepherd’s fields are the most exciting thing to see in Bethlehem besides Rachel’s Tomb, and I didn’t want to spend time seeing the rest.
More Biblical Accounts
What makes this place so special is the fact there were several well-known people in the bible who were born and lived in the town of Bethlehem, including our Savior Yahshua Messiah. When Jacob and his family were coming from Bethel on the way Ephrath, they stopped and Rachel gave birth to their son, Benjamin.
After a difficult birth, Rachel died and they buried her in Bethlehem (Genesis 35:16,19). They still have her marked grave among them to this day. Much later on, Ruth and Boaz came to Bethlehem and started their family, which became the House of David. Like Yahshua, the famous King David, was also born and grew up in Bethlehem.
If you ever get the chance to visit Israel, make sure you include Bethlehem on your itinerary, because even though there isn’t a whole lot of things do and see in the city, it’s truly special to witness firsthand the actual place where Yahshua our wonderful and loving Messiah was born.
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