(Photo: A decorated Christmas tree next to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, December 15, 2010/Ammar Awad)
The birthplace of Jesus is hardly an easy “weekend getaway” spot, but for a taste of how today’s Holy Land feels, this hospitable Palestinian town draped over the steep hilltops outside Jerusalem is an essential place to visit.
Most foreigners fly into Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, an hour away from Jerusalem, and enter via Israeli checkpoints into the occupied West Bank. Security remains tight but there is currently no tension to deter the hardy traveler.
Visitors love to come at Christmas, when a crowded Bethlehem celebrates its most famous date at the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square. But the town hosts tourists year round. In the summer it’s hot. In winter, there can be a veil of snow on the rooftops so warm clothing is advisable.
Click here for tips from our local correspondent Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh on what to visit and where to eat. Among the places to see are:
(Photo: The Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, in Bethlehem, ahead of Christmas, on December 16, 2010/Ammar Awad)