If you are planning to visit Bethlehem on a day trip from Jerusalem, you’ve come to the right place. This post contains some useful information for crossing over to the West Bank from Jerusalem, as well as places to visit in Bethlehem.
The town of Bethlehem has always been considered the birthplace of Jesus Christ. So if you are a Christian, Bethlehem should be very high on your list of places to visit in Israel.
DAY TRIP FROM JERUSALEM TO BETHLEHEM – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Unfortunately, Bethlehem sits at the heart of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and, as a result, many people consider it unsafe to visit.
Who can visit Bethlehem?
Bethlehem is located on the West Bank, which is part of the Palestinian Territories. Although Bethlehem is only 10 km (6 miles) away from Jerusalem, Israeli citizens cannot visit it. Similarly, Palestinian citizens also have very restricted access into Israel.
On the other hand, touristsare free to enter and exit the checkpoint from Jerusalem toBethlehemwithout any restrictions.
Is Bethlehem safe to visit?
Crossing over to Bethlehem is pretty safe for tourists. The town is a big attraction and the Palestinian authorities go to great lengths to make it safe to visit.You just need to bring their passport with an Israeli-issuedtouristvisa to enter and exit the Palestinian areas.
How Can You Cross Over From Jerusalem to Bethlehem?
You can visit Bethlehem either with a group tour, or independently. If you want to visit independently, you have two options for crossing over from Jerusalem to Bethlehem: by bus or by taxi.
Car rental companies in Israel do not insure your car for driving inside the Palestinian territories, so if you get into an accident, or the car gets stolen, you are not covered.
By Bus or by Taxi
The cheapest way travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is by bus. The Arab bus No.21 departs daily from East Jerusalem bus station, just across Damascus gate. Another option is to take a taxi from any place in Jerusalem. If you choose to hire a cab, make sure you agree with the driver ahead of time about the price.
Via a Guided Tour
If you want peace of mind and minimum hassle at the checkpoint into the West Bank, you should book a group guided tour. I think it’s a safer and less stressful way to cross over to the West Bank. You don’t even need to show your passport at the checkpoint, as the tour companies will ask for your passport number when you book your tour.
There are several tour companies that offer day trips to Bethlehem guided tours from many points in Israel, like Abraham Tours, Tourist Israel, or Tours by Locals.
Many people visit Bethlehem as a day trip from Tel Aviv, or Eilat. However, since Jerusalem is the closest city to Bethlehem, all tours that start in other cities, change busses in Jerusalem to cross over to Bethlehem.
Here are a few guided tour options:
What currency do you need in the Palestinian Territories?
ThePalestinian territory does nothave its own currency.You can use Israeli shekels, Jordanian dinars, US dollars or Euros. However, other than a few souvenirs and some food, there is not much to buy in Bethlehem. If you are on a guided tour, your lunch will be provided.
WHAT TO VISIT ON YOUR DAY TRIP FROM JERUSALEM TO BETHLEHEM
The Church of the Nativity
If you have ever had the opportunity to visit Bethlehem you’ll probably find the place where Jesus was born is nothing like you imagined it. What was a humble village in Biblical times is now a large and flourishing city, with over 60,000 inhabitants.
If you are a Christian, the first thing you’ll probably want to visit on your day trip to Bethlehem is the Church of the Nativity, which is one of the holiest sites in Christendom. The church stands on the site that Christian tradition identifies as the birthplace of Jesus.
The Church of the Nativity is a pilgrim destination on a traditional pilgrimage route that connects Jerusalem with Bethlehem.The basilica you see today replaced the original church built by Constantine the Great’s mother, Helena, in 339 A.D. That church was destroyed in a fire in the 6th century AD.
The current church nave is in the shape of a cross, bordered by four rows of large columns. Through two big openings in the church’s floor you can seethe old mosaicsfrom the church built in 339 AD.
One surprising aspect of the Church of the Nativity is its small, humble entrance which is about 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide.It is believed that during the Ottoman period Christians made the entrance even narrower to prevent mounted horsemen from entering theChurch.
Today, the main entrance to the Church is called “The Door of Humility” because when you pass through it, you must bow down to enter.
The Grotto of the Nativity
From the south part of the church you can access the Grotto of the Nativity, which is the actual place where Jesus was born. For Christians, this tiny grotto is a place of deep religious significance and the major highlight of a visit to Bethlehem.
The Church of St. Catherine
Adjacent to the Basilica of the Nativity is the theChurchof Saint Catherine, a Roman Catholic parish which functions as a Franciscan monastery. The church was dedicated to St. Catharine of Alexandria in 1347.
Catherine of Alexandria was noble, well educated woman who protested against Emperor Maxentius’ persecution of Christians. Because of that, the Emperor ordered her to be tortured on the wheel. However, the wheel broke down miraculously when it came in contact with her body. Not being able to execute her in this manner, the Emperor beheaded her instead.
As you exit the staircase of the Grotto of the Nativity, you’ll find yourself in the the St. Catherine’s Church sanctuary which is quite impressive. On the way out you’ll pass through the church’s courtyard at the center of which there is a life size statue of Saint Jerome.
One place not to miss when visiting Bethlehem is the archeological site of Herodium. Located about 12 km south ofJerusalemand only 5 km southeast ofBethlehem, the site contains the remains of an impressive palace/fortress built by King Herod the Great between 23 and 15 B.C.
The hill on which the palace sits rises 758 meters above sea level, making it visible from afar. Herod extended the height of the hill artificially, to make it the tallest mountain in the Judean desert. Herodian is also the location of King Herod’s tomb.
The Milk Grotto
Just a short distance from the Church of the Nativity is another Christian pilgrimage site: the Milk Grotto.
According to tradition, while Mary and Joseph were on their way to Egypt running away fromHerod’s soldiers, they stopped in this cave while Mary nursed baby Jesus. A drop of Mary’smilkfell upon the stone and it turned white. The Milk Grotto was indeed carved out of soft white rock.
In 1872 theFranciscanserected a church around the Milk Grotto which local artisans later decorated with mother-of-pearl carvings. The site is especially frequented bynew mothers and women who are trying to conceive.
The West Bank Barrier (the Wall)
Another point of interest in Bethlehem is the Wall – aseparation barrierbetween East Jerusalem and theWest Bank. Israel considers it asecurity barrieragainst terrorism, while Palestinians call it theracial segregationwall.
Construction of the wall began in 2002 in response to a Palestinian uprising that resulted in the death of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.
The 8-meter high wall is a sad reminder that there is no peace in the Middle East now or even soon! The slabs of grey concrete that make up the wall between Jerusalem and the West Bank are simply ugly, but Palestinian street artists in Bethlehem tried to decorate them.
But the murals are not simply decorative. They are a rhetorical mode of expressing the artists’ anger, grief and demands for basic human rights.
A Final Word
So is it worth taking a trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? Absolutely! Regardless of your political views or religious convictions, Bethlehem remains one of the major attractions in Israel and it’s quite easy to visit fr Jerusalem.
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How do you cross from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? ›
Visitors can travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on an Egged bus from the Central Bus Station to Kever Rachel (the Tomb of Rachel), and from there, you can catch a taxi.Can you walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? ›
Going from Jerusalem into Bethlehem is as simple as walking through a turnstile. It took less than a minute and there was no one checking documents. Getting back into Jerusalem takes a fraction longer.Is Bethlehem worth visiting? ›
UNESCO has named this place as a world heritage site since 2012. There is a silver star symbol at the place considered as the birthplace of Jesus. It is in an underground cave. If you are a Christian, it is worth visiting Bethlehem to see Christ's birthplace.How long is the journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? ›
The journey takes approximately 25 min. How far is it from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? The distance between Jerusalem and Bethlehem is 7 km.How far was Bethlehem from Jerusalem in Jesus day? ›
Bethlehem, Arabic Bayt Laḥm (“House of Meat”), Hebrew Bet Leḥem (“House of Bread”), town in the West Bank, situated in the Judaean Hills 5 miles (8 km) south of Jerusalem. According to the Gospels (Matthew 2; Luke 2), Bethlehem was the site of the Nativity of Jesus Christ.Can Americans go to Bethlehem? ›
They are also prohibited from entering Gaza and are generally prohibited from traveling to parts of the West Bank under PA control (Area A), to include Bethlehem and Jericho. Individuals holding only U.S. citizenship are not prohibited from using any of the crossings into Jordan.Can you visit Bethlehem where Jesus was born? ›
Bethlehem is the place of Christ's birth but also a thriving modern Palestinian city. Today visitors can travel to Bethlehem to see the exact place where Jesus was born.How far did Mary and Joseph travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? ›
They had to travel 90 miles to the city of Joseph's ancestors: south along the flatlands of the Jordan River, then west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and on into Bethlehem.Can Christians visit Bethlehem? ›
Bethlehem is a must destination for all Christian visitors to Israel, and for many non-Christians as well. Bethlehem is the biblical location of the nativity, where Jesus Christ was born on the first Christmas Eve.Can you visit where Jesus was born in Jerusalem? ›
Church of the Nativity
This church in Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem (in the West Bank), was built over a cave known as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. You can go down the steps into the cave, where you will see an altar and a silver star, marking the exact place of the nativity.
Is Bethlehem a walkable city? ›
Bethlehem is “somewhat walkable,” according to Walk Score, and the construction of a pedestrian bridge connecting North and South Bethlehem would increase pedestrian safety and ease of commuting on foot or bicycle.Do US citizens need visa to enter Israel? ›
What documents do I need to travel to Israel? For U.S. and Canadian citizens, all you need is a passport that's valid at least six months longer than your date of arrival in Israel. (For stays up to three months, you don't need a visa.)How far is Jerusalem to Bethlehem by walking? ›
The distance from the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem to the Church of Nativity in the nucleus of Bethlehem is about 11 km (7 miles). This is a 3 hour walk for the average walker, especially when keeping in mind that the road is quite flat.How many days did it take Mary to get to Bethlehem? ›
Many stories exist as to why Joseph, and a heavily pregnant Mary riding on a donkey, took their five-day journey (possibly longer) from Nazareth to Bethlehem, often referred to as the Nativity Trail.Is it easy to visit Bethlehem? ›
Is Bethlehem safe to visit? Crossing over to Bethlehem is pretty safe for tourists. The town is a big attraction and the Palestinian authorities go to great lengths to make it safe to visit. You just need to bring their passport with an Israeli-issued tourist visa to enter and exit the Palestinian areas.How far was the journey to Bethlehem? ›
“The Journey to Bethlehem” recounts Mary and Joseph's 75-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as mandated Roman bureaucrats as part of a census.How far did Jesus travel from Jerusalem? ›
Christian texts refer to Jesus walking 3,125 miles during his ministry. Taking into account that a determined person, on a mission, could make the trip from Judea to Galilee (150 – 200 km) on foot in six days, it is possible that an experienced walker with knowledge of the terrain could venture far greater distances.How long did it take Mary and Joseph to travel from Bethlehem to Egypt? ›
It is estimated that the whole journey from Bethlehem to the return to Nazareth lasted over three years. They had covered approximately 1242.80 miles. Their means of transport was a weak beast of burden and the occasional sailboat on the Nile.Do I need a visa to visit Bethlehem? ›
Citizens of the USA, Canada, the European Union, Australia, and New Zealand do not need a visa to enter Israel, only a valid passport.What language is spoken in Bethlehem? ›
Palestinian Rural Dialect
The Central rural Palestinian form is mainly spoken in Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jaffa, and the southern outer rural Levantine Arabic is spoken to the south of the Ashdod-Bethlehem/Isdud line.
Where is the mountain where Jesus was crucified? ›
LAWTON: According to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified at a spot outside Jerusalem called Golgotha, which in Aramaic means “place of the skull.” The Latin word for skull is calvaria, and in English many Christians refer to the site of the crucifixion as Calvary.Where is the actual birthplace of Jesus? ›
Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem. The inscribed property is situated 10 km south of Jerusalem on the site identified by Christian tradition as the birthplace of Jesus since the 2nd century.What country would Bethlehem be in today? ›
The episode is described in Luke 2:41–52. Jesus at the age of twelve accompanies Mary and Joseph, and a large group of their relatives and friends to Jerusalem on pilgrimage, "according to the custom" – that is, Passover.
Luke also mentions that Joseph, Mary and Jesus leave Bethlehem eight days after his birth and travel to Jerusalem and then to Nazareth.How old was Joseph when Mary had Jesus? ›
It wasn't the only document that did so. In another early text, The History of Joseph the Carpenter, which was composed in Egypt between the 6th and 7th centuries, Christ himself tells the story of his step-father, claiming Joseph was 90 years old when he married Mary and died at 111.Why should I visit Bethlehem? ›
According to Christian tradition, Bethlehem is the holiest of places: the birthplace of Jesus. This fabled town is known the world over and has become a major pilgrimage site for Christians.Why we should visit Bethlehem? ›
Bethlehem is first referenced in the Hebrew Scriptures, and known primarily as Rachel's burial place and King David's city of origin. Since the spread of Christianity, Bethlehem is most famous as Jesus's birthplace, and it is the consequent Christian tourism which largely supports this small town of around 25,000.What day of week is best to visit Bethlehem? ›
If you want to go to Bethlehem, Saturday is a good day to go, because the buses from Jerusalem to Bethlehem are operated by an Arab company and are not affected by the Jewish Sabbath. Sunday is a normal working day in Israel and everything will be open.Is Jesus's manger still there? ›
The rest of what is believed to be left of the manger is kept at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The thumb-size relic was unveiled at the Notre Dame church in Jerusalem before it arrived in Bethlehem, where it was greeted with marching bands and cheerful crowds, Reuters and the Associated Press reported.
Is the tomb of Jesus still in Jerusalem? ›
The Garden Tomb (Hebrew: גן הקבר) is a rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem, which was unearthed in 1867 and is considered by some Protestants to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus.Can you go into Jesus Tomb? ›
No matter the time of day, expect a line of pilgrims waiting their turn to enter Christ's Tomb. Greek Orthodox priests monitor entry, and you won't be given much time. No photography is allowed inside the Edicule. Our group waited in line a little less than an hour, and the visit was over in minutes.Which is the most important site in Bethlehem? ›
Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity is top of the town's sightseeing list and is said to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ. A church has sat here continuously since Byzantine Emperor Constantine built a chapel on this spot in the 4th century CE.How long did it take to walk to Bethlehem? ›
If the current hypothesis among biblical scholars stands—that is a four-day journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem—Mary and Joseph would have had to travel about 90 miles in four days, averaging a 2.5-mph pace for roughly eight hours a day.What can pilgrims do in Bethlehem? ›
Christian pilgrims travel to Bethlehem, particularly at Christmas time to attend services in the Church of the Nativity. Some pilgrims kiss the star representing the birthplace of Christ to show their devotion .What can you not bring to Israel? ›
Instead of what to pack for your trip, you should focus more on what not to bring to Israel. Don't carry Koran or any book in Arabi language. Your clothes should not have any religious or political prints on them. Refrain from toy weapons or anything that might raise suspicion against you.Who Cannot enter Israel? ›
If you have a work visa or a visa that isn't a tourism visa, there are countries that will ban you. These include Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Yemen.How long can a US citizen visit Israel? ›
Visitors are entitled to remain in Israel up to three months from the date of their arrival, in accordance with the conditions of the visa issued to them. Visitors intending to work in Israel must submit a request to the Ministry of the Interior for a special visa.What is the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem? ›
The Via Dolorosa (Latin, 'Sorrowful Way', often translated 'Way of Suffering'; Arabic: طريق الآلام; Hebrew: ויה דולורוזה) is a processional route in the Old City of Jerusalem. It represents the path that Jesus would have taken, forced by the Roman soldiers, on the way to his crucifixion.Do Catholics use Jerusalem Cross? ›
Greek crosses, Latin crosses, Celtic crosses, and Jerusalem crosses are just a few examples of the different types of crosses created throughout the history of the Catholic faith.
Where is the first station of the cross in Jerusalem? ›
Station I – Jesus is condemned to death
The Via Dolorosa starts in front of the Ottoman building of 'Madrasa el-Omariyya', a school situated in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, around 300 m from the Lion's Gate. The tradition says that here stood the Roman Antonia Fortress where Jesus was sentenced to death.
An old square stone to the right of the door of the church is said to bear the handprint of Jesus.Where in Jerusalem did Jesus carry the Cross? ›
The Via Dolorosa, the “way of sorrow,” is the stone street in the Old City of Jerusalem along which Jesus carried the cross to his own crucifixion, according to the New Testament.How tall was Jesus? ›
He may have stood about 5-ft.-5-in. (166 cm) tall, the average man's height at the time.