Book of the Month

Bethlehem The Historic Center and Bethlehemites in Jerusalem

By Ghadeer Najjar
Diyar Publisher, Bethlehem, 2017
143 pages, 49 shekels.

Bethlehem: The Historic Center and Bethlehemites in Jerusalem is a new, creative Palestinian city guide, designed according to routes that lead tourists on their visit to Bethlehem’s historic center. The guide helps international and local visitors enjoy an authentic tour of the city of Bethlehem, journeying along three routes that introduce the cultural, religious, and heritage aspects of the city, as well as a tour that connects Bethlehem with Jerusalem.

This new guide provides information about local markets, small hidden museums, cultural centers, coffee shops, restaurants, religious sites, and events that locals attend throughout the entire year. The guide includes an introduction to Palestinian cultural heritage and lifestyle, the history of Bethlehem city, stories of Bethlehemites, and religious customs and their connection to significant religious texts.

The last tour, titled “A Walk to Bethlehem,” focuses on re-linking Jerusalem to Bethlehem, the relationship between the people of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and the movement of pilgrims between the two cities. Landmarks along Bethlehem Road, which turns into the Jerusalem-Hebron road, highlight the presence of Bethlehemites in Jerusalem and reveal the city’s history from the Ottoman Era to the British Mandate, the Israeli occupation, the Oslo Agreement, and finally the Palestinian Authority.

The guide proposes 4 routes, 123 tourist attractions, and 14 personalities from Bethlehem and Jerusalem to present the story of a city with great history and warm hospitality. With this guide, tourists can travel alone in the city to discover attractions, build friendships, shop in the streets, taste delicious Palestinian food, dance to popular Palestinian music, and experience the city’s religious life based on their interests and aspirations.

Professor Tom Selwyn, from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, commented: “Each page of this attractively illustrated guidebook reveals the cultural richness, liveliness, and sheer beauty of this unique city. Bethlehem is home not only to overlapping histories of three monotheistic religions and, on the pilgrimage route of the patriarchs from Jerusalem to the Nativity Church, one of the three Palestinian World Heritage Sites, but it also exemplifies the ideals of Mediterranean hospitality.”

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, of Diyar Consortium, called it “a first-of-its-kind guidebook that gives unique insight into the cultural, social, and religious history of “the Little Town” that has taken its place on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List. It is a book that gives readers and travelers a golden opportunity to tour Bethlehem, as seen by one of its own people.”

The guide aims to develop authentic tourism that focuses on the Palestinian narrative and oral history, as well as on human Palestine, not just the stones. This book, published through Diyar Publishing, is a qualitative addition to the Palestinian library and an important window for pilgrims and visitors to Palestine.