Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem Ornament
Bethlehem is placed sacred to all three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Bethlehem (House of Bread) is located about 10 Kilometers (6 miles) southwest of Jerusalem by the hill country of Judea on the way to Hebron. It is first mentioned in the Tel al Amarna letters from the Egyptian Governor of Palestine to Pharaoh Amnehotep. Bethlehem plays a significant part in the Old Testament, in the history of the Israelites, both before they entered Egypt and slavery, and after the Exodus. In the Bible, it is first mentioned as "Ephrata" in connection with the death of Rachel, Jacob's beloved wife whom he buried outside the town when she died in childbirth. The Tomb of Rachel is a pilgrimage place for Jews and Muslims alike. Among other Biblical mentions and Holy Sites in Bethlehem: Rachel's tomb, Naomi and Ruth, Samuel anoints King David and the well from which David's warriors brought him waters.
In the bible it is called "Bethlehem of Judah" (belonging to the tribe of Judah), to distinguish it from the other Bethlehem, which was in the North in the territory of the Zebulon. David, the youngest son of a Bethlehem-farmer (a shepherd) is chosen and anointed by the Prophet Samuel on behalf of the Lord as a king. (First Samuel 17:12). According to Matthew 2 and Luke 2, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and Matthew interpreted this as the fulfillment of Micah's prophecy. In effect it became a sort of official rightful place of the family line of David. Christian tradition, perhaps as early as the second century CE, identified a cave as the site of Jesus' birth. About 338 CE Constantine, the Roman emperor and his mother, Helena, built a church over the grotto and In 527 Justinian the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire resettled in Bethlehem, his reign was one of great prosperity and expansion of churches. The site of the Nativity is a central pilgrimage destination for Christians from all over the world. When the Muslims began their conquests out of Arabia, the Caliph Omar visited Bethlehem in 638 and out of respect for Christianity, ordered the Church of Nativity to be preserved. The central mosque on Manger Square in named after Caliph Omar. Bethlehem was a city of importance to the Crusaders, who conquered it in the year 1100. Over years of wars between the Crusaders and the Muslims the city was destroyed, and then subsequently rebuilt. The Turks destroyed the city in 1244, but the church somehow escaped, Bethlehem was rebuilt once again. When finally the Crusaders were driven from Palestine in 1291, the Moslem rulers used the holy places for political and financial ends. Although Bethlehem was still nominally endowed, collection of revenue from the land was impossible. In 1332 Pope John XXII wrote to Edward III of England, to David II of Scotland and to Simon of Meopham, Archbishop of Canterbury, asking them to help the bishop of Bethlehem to regain his interest and so enable him to return to Bethlehem and carry out repairs. Decay and destruction proceeded over the years as a result of fighting between the local Christian and Muslim residents. This design has been painted from the inside of the glass by skilled artisan. This ancient technique is achieved by special curved brushes that are inserted from the top hole.