Church of the Nativity © Britchi Mirela
Bethlehem is just six miles (10km) south of Jerusalem, and is a major tourist attraction for pilgrims and visitors alike. The putative birthplace of Jesus, this is a charming town despite its tourist-centred commercialism. The Church of the Nativity is the focal point for a visit to the town, erected over the site of Jesus' birthplace. Bethlehem is also a wonderful place to experience the variety of Christian monasteries that represent every permutation of Christianity. Christmas is celebrated on three separate dates in accordance with the Catholic church calendar, the Eastern calendar followed by the Armenians, and the Julian calendar followed by the Greek Orthodox and Eastern churches. For further exploration of the town's cultural diversity and to learn something about its secular history visit the Bethlehem Museum, established by the Arab Women's Union to celebrate the area's Palestinian cultural heritage. The exhibits include displays from traditional household items to clothing, jewellery and old photographs and allow insight into the domestic history of the town.
Travellers should note that Bethlehem is in the West Bank and due to regular outbreaks of violence between Palestinian and Jewish factions the security situation should be checked before contemplating a visit.