Skip to main content
Select Source:

Bethlehem (town, West Bank)

Bethlehem (bĕth´lĬhĕm,–lēəm) [Heb.,=house of bread or house of Lahm, a goddess], Arab. Bayt Lahm, town (2003 est. pop. 28,000), in the West Bank. It is traditionally considered the birthplace of Jesus and is one of the world's great shrines. Situated on a hill in green, fertile country, Bethlehem looks across to the Dead Sea and beyond. Its inhabitants, who are Muslim and Christian Arabs, depend largely on pilgrims and tourists for their livelihood. Handicrafts, fashioned from olive wood and mother-of-pearl, embroidered goods, and religious articles are made in the town. Bethlehem is also the trade center for surrounding farming villages and for the pastoral nomads who inhabit the area.

In the Old Testament Bethlehem was the scene of the book of Ruth and the home of David. The tomb of Rachel is nearby. Benjamin was born near Ephratah (or Ephrath), which was either an earlier name for Bethlehem or a nearby town. David and his family neglected their city, which became obscure, forgotten by all except those who looked to Bethlehem for the Messiah.

The city later became important as the birthplace of Jesus. Hadrian desecrated (AD 135) the traditional place of the nativity with a grove sacred to Adonis. In 315, Constantine destroyed the heathen grove and constructed instead the Church of the Nativity (completed 333). The church, rebuilt and enlarged by Justinian I in the 6th cent., is now shared by monks of Greek, Latin, and Armenian orders. The place where Jesus was born is said to have been in the grotto under the church. Saint Jerome lived (386–420?) in the court of the church and produced there the Vulgate text of the Bible.

From 1099 to 1187, Crusaders controlled Bethlehem, and in 1571 the city was annexed by the Ottoman Empire. It was part of the British-administered Palestine mandate from 1922 until 1948, when it joined Jordan. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Bethlehem became part of the Israeli-occupied territories, administered militarily by Israeli troops. Palestinian refugee camps were located nearby. In Dec., 1995, Israeli troops withdrew from Bethlehem as part of the process of establishing Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank, but the city was the scene of Palestinian-Israeli fighting in the renewed conflict that began in 2000.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bethlehem (town, West Bank)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bethlehem (town, West Bank)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bethlehem-town-west-bank

"Bethlehem (town, West Bank)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bethlehem-town-west-bank

Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM

city in the west bank.

This small city is a center of Christian pilgrimage to the birthplace of Jesus and to the site of the Church of the Nativity, built in the fourth century. Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and some Latin-rite churches also exist. In Judaism, it is the setting for most of the biblical Book of Ruth; King David lived there when it was called Judaea and was anointed king of Israel there by the prophet Samuel.

Bethlehem is 5 miles (8 km) southwest of Jerusalem. In addition to being a center of tourism and pilgrimage, Bethlehem is now an agricultural market and trade center, with a population of 21,673 Palestinian Arabs as of 1997. The town has long had a disproportionately high percentage of Christian residents, and it traditionally has a Christian mayor.

The city was part of the territory that brought the Crusaders to fight the Muslims; became part of the Ottoman Empire; then, with the dismemberment of the empire after World War I, became part of the British mandate territory of Palestine. During the ArabIsrael War of 1948, Jordan annexed the city, which became part of the West Bank. Israel controlled Bethlehem from 1967 to 1994, after which it passed into the control of the Palestinian Authority. Pope John Paul II visited the town in March 2000. In April and May of 2002, after the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada that saw Israel reoccupy the city for some time, the Church of the Nativity was the scene of a five-week standoff between Israeli forces and armed Palestinians.

see also aqsa intifada, al-; arabisrael war (1948); palestinian authority; west bank.

Benjamin Joseph

Updated by Michael R. Fischbach

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bethlehem." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bethlehem." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bethlehem

"Bethlehem." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bethlehem

Bethlehem (city, United States)

Bethlehem, city (1990 pop. 71,428), Northampton and Lehigh counties, E Pa., on the Lehigh R. near Allentown and Easton; inc. as a city 1917. Local manufacturing, once dominated by the giant Bethlehem Steel Corp., is now more diversified. Chemicals, machines, cement, and textiles have been important, and a semiconductor industry is growing rapidly. A gambling casino opened in 2009. Bethlehem was settled in 1740–41 by Moravians (see Moravian Church) and incorporated as a borough in 1845. Steelmaking began in the early 1870s, and Bethlehem Steel's structural-steel mill opened in 1908; in 1995, when it closed, the steelmaking era ended. Many of the mill's huge buildings remain in the city. In Bethlehem is the Moravian Museum, which incorporates the Gemeinhaus (1741); the Central Moravian Church (c.1803); and the Schnitz House (1749). An internationally famous spring music festival performed by the Bach Choir (1898) is held in the city. Bethlehem is the seat of Lehigh Univ. and Moravian College.

See R. Schwartz, Bethlehem on the Lehigh (1991).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bethlehem (city, United States)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bethlehem (city, United States)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bethlehem-city-united-states

"Bethlehem (city, United States)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bethlehem-city-united-states

Bethlehem

Bethlehem (Bayt Lahm) Town on the w bank of the River Jordan, 8km (5mi) ssw of Jerusalem, administered by the Palestinian National Authority since 1994. The traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ, it was the home of King David and the site of the biblical Massacre of the Innocents. The Church of the Nativity, built by Constantine in ad 330, is the oldest Christian church still in use. Part of the Ottoman Empire from 1571 to 1916, then in British-administered Palestine, Jordan gained the town in 1948. Israel occupied Bethlehem in the Six-Day War (1967). Industries: tourism. Pop. (1997) 21,947.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bethlehem." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bethlehem." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bethlehem

"Bethlehem." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bethlehem

Bethlehem (town, South Africa)

Bethlehem, town, Free State prov., E central South Africa, part and seat of Dihlabeng local municipality. It is situated in a farming and livestock area and has industries producing furniture and food products. Bethlehem was founded in 1860, and its main growth began after the railroad from Natal (present-day KwaZulu-Natal) reached there in 1905.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bethlehem (town, South Africa)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bethlehem (town, South Africa)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bethlehem-town-south-africa

"Bethlehem (town, South Africa)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bethlehem-town-south-africa

Bethlehem

Bethlehem. Town located 5 miles south of Jerusalem. On the basis of Micah 5. 2, Jesus' birth in the city is understood by Christians as the fulfilment of prophecy (Matthew 2. 1–12; Luke 2. 1–20).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bethlehem." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bethlehem." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bethlehem

"Bethlehem." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bethlehem

Bethlehem

Bethlehem a small town to the south of Jerusalem, first mentioned in Egyptian records of the 14th century bc. It was the native city of King David and is the reputed birthplace of Jesus. (See also bedlam.)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bethlehem." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bethlehem." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bethlehem

"Bethlehem." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bethlehem

Bethlehem

Bethlehem. Choral-drama by Boughton. Lib. based on medieval Coventry Play. (Prod. Street, Somerset, 1915).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bethlehem." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bethlehem." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bethlehem

"Bethlehem." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bethlehem

Bethlehem

Bethlehemahem, Belém, Clem, condemn, contemn, crème de la crème, em, gem, hem, Jem, LibDem, phlegm, pro tem, rem, Shem, stem, them •carpe diem, per diem •proem • idem • modem • diadem •mayhem • Bethlehem • ad hominem •ad valorem • brainstem •apophthegm (US apothegm)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bethlehem." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bethlehem." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bethlehem-0

"Bethlehem." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bethlehem-0