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Bethlehem

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Bethlehem (Arabic: بیت لحم) is one of the historical cities of Palestine and the birth town of Prophet David (a) and Prophet Jesus (a).

Rahil, Jacob's (a) wife was also buried in this city. According to historians, the palm tree, Virgin Mary (a) ate from its fruits, was in Bethlehem.

The Prophet (s) visited this city during his ascension and following the advice of Gabriel, performed prayer in the birthplace of Jesus (a). After the conquest of Jerusalem in 16/637 (during the caliphate of the Second Caliph) Bethlehem too was conquered by Muslims and during the Crusades, its control changed in the hands of Christians and Muslims several times.

The existence of a church in the birthplace of Jesus (a) the age of which reached forth century CE, made Bethlehem one of the cities Christians visited and chose for living, but after the war between Arabs and Israel and the occupation of Palestinian cities in 1365/1948, this city became the place for living displaced Muslims and its demography changed.

Geographical Features

Bethlehem is one of the historical cities of Palestine and the capital of Bethlehem province in the West Bank of Jordan River. This city is located ten km southwest of Jerusalem in the main road between Hebron and Jerusalem. The height of this city from the sea is about 780 m and has a mild weather.

Before Islam

A view of historical church of the Nativity, one of the respected place of Christians which is a respected place for Muslims as well. Christians believe Jesus (a) was born in this church

Based on some reports, Bethlehem was residential since two thousand BC. This city is mentioned in the tablets known as Tell el-Amarna belonging to fourteen centuries BC. This city was the city of Canaanites. Historical sources mentioned this city as the burial place of Rahil, Jacob's (a) wife and the mother of Josef (a) and the birth town of David (a), where he spent his childhood.

Since Bethlehem was the birthplace of Prophet Jesus (a), it is respected by Christians and is a sacred city to them. Based on the report of al-Ya'qubi, lady Mary (a) went to Bethlehem when she was pregnant. Some historians believe that the palm tree which Lady Mary (a) ate from its dates, (as it is mentioned in the Qur'an) was in this city. Upon his visit of the city in the eighth/fourteenth century, Ibn Batuta visited the remnants of this palm tree.

By the order of the emperor of Rome, a church was built in the birthplace of Jesus (a) in the fourth century CE. This church was ruined by Samaritans, but later, it was reconstructed by the emperor of that period and became famous as the Church of the Nativity.

After Islam

The only mosque in Bethlehem which was built almost 150 years ago.

Following the conquest of Jerusalem during the caliphate of the Second Caliph in 16/637, Bethlehem too was conquered by Muslims. After the conquest of Bethlehem, the Second Caliph ordered to build a mosque in this city and asked the Christians of this city to protect it in return for providing them with security. According to Hamawi, the building of this mosque existed until the seventh/thirteenth century.

The Prayer of the Prophet (s) in Bethlehem

According to historians, during his ascension, following the advice of Gabriel, the Prophet (s) performed a two-rak'a prayer in the birthplace of Jesus (a).

During Middle Ages

During Crusades, the control of Bethlehem was several times taken and lost between Ayyubis and Crusaders. Since the conquest of this city by Muslims, it was first taken back by Crusaders in 492/1099 and was conquered again by Salah al-Din Ayyubi in 583/1187. In 923/1517, the city was taken by Ottomans. During most Islamic periods, this city was a place Christians lived.

Contemporary Period

After the uprising of Muslims of Palestine in 1250/1835 against Ibrahim Pasha, the governor of Egypt, the order to massacre Muslims in Bethlehem was issued. Thus, in the thirteenth/eighteenth century, the population of Muslims was decreased. Also, during World War I, many Christians of Bethlehem immigrated to the United States.

During the British Mandate for Palestine (1927 – 1948), Bethlehem was considered among the colonies of this country. After the declaration of existence of a country inside Palestine, called Israel by Zionists in 1948 and the first war of Arabs with Israel, Bethlehem's control was taken by Egypt and then in 1950, this city together with some other areas of the West Bank of Jordan River became a part of Jordan.

During the Six-Day War between Arabs and Israel in 1967, Bethlehem was occupied by Israel. After the occupation of Palestinian cities, about five thousand people of Palestinian refugees moved to this city, the Muslim population of this city increased and the demography of this city changed.

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from بیت لحم in Farsi WikiShia.