Bethlehem

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Posted by sonny 04/07/2009 @ 07:09

Tags : bethlehem, west bank, middle east, world

News headlines
Sands casino, on a test run, greets Bethlehem's first gamblers ... - Allentown Morning Call
But most people at Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem on Monday were there to be the first people to gamble in Bethlehem. Invited guests from across the region flocked to south Bethlehem for the first of two test runs designed to get the $743 million casino...
Police: Bethlehem teen threatened grandmother - Allentown Morning Call
A 16-year-old Bethlehem boy threatened his grandmother for ''disrespecting'' the mother of his child and struck a police officer on Sunday morning, police said. The boy, whose name was not released, was charged with aggravated assault,...
Liberty High teen acquitted of Bethlehem armed robbery - Allentown Morning Call
By Riley Yates | OF THE MORNING CALL A Liberty High School sophomore accused of severely beating a Bethlehem man during an armed robbery was acquitted of all charges Monday. After about 30 minutes of deliberations, a Northampton County jury found...
Bethlehem Area holds superintendent vacancy talks - Allentown Morning Call
By Steve Esack | OF THE MORNING CALL The Bethlehem Area School Board has begun meeting -- in the home of the board president -- with prospective temporary replacements for Superintendent Joseph Lewis. One of those would-be candidates,...
Bethlehem girls need OT to oust Colonie - Schenectady Gazette
Cameron Caesar scored four goals and also added an assist Monday as third-seeded Bethlehem sidestepped an upset with an 8-7 overtime win over Colonie in the first round of the Section II Class AA girls' lacrosse playoffs. Rachel Scofield each had two...
Puddle of Mudd to rock Musikfest in Bethlehem - The Express Times - LehighValleyLive.com
ArtsQuest officials announced today that Puddle of Mudd will rock Musikfest in Bethlehem along with Trapt and Stasis, according to a news release. The bands are scheduled to play at 6:30 pm Aug. 6, the release says. Tickets for the show will go on sale...
Section II team tennis final (Bethlehem vs. Guilderland) - Albany Times Union
sports fan: What a joke that Schenectady gets a 4 seed over Toga. Great season but they play C schools all year long.... Big JIm: when do the boys lacrosse seedings get released? Tornado: Tyler from Schoharie are you for real....
Dreaming big on small scale - Minneapolis Star Tribune
Visiting four Minnesota high schools -- Ada-Borup, Bethlehem Academy, New London-Spicer and Caledonia -- at which athletic achievements build over generations, not just years. By JOHN MILLEA, Star Tribune As a group of high school kids gathered around...
Bethlehem man admits $5600 wad of cash is from drug sales - The Express Times - LehighValleyLive.com
by Michael Buck A Bethlehem man who was pulled over early this morning for a traffic stop in Bethlehem Township, Pa., later told police a $5633 wad of cash he had on him was from drug sales, court records say. Stefan Eugene Toulouse of the 1500 block...
Bethlehem Catholic 4x100 relay third-seeded - The Press Box
Bethlehem Catholic senior sprinters Tevrin Brandon and OJ Buie have big aspirations and because of them the Golden Hawks 400-meter relay appears to have a solid chance of placing first, second or third in the Class 2A relay in the PIAA Track and Field...

Bethlehem

The Mosque of Omar (Umar) was built in 1860 to commemorate the Caliph Umar's visit to Bethlehem upon its capture by the Muslims. It is Bethlehem's only mosque

Bethlehem (Arabic: بيت لحم‎, Bayt Laḥm (help·info), lit "House of Meat"; Greek: Βηθλεέμ Bethleém; Hebrew: בית לחם‎, Beit Lehem, lit "House of Bread") is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank, approximately 10 kilometers (6 mi) south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism. Bethlehem is believed by most Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The town is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, though the size of the community has shrunk in recent years due to emigration.

The city is the birthplace of David and the location where he was crowned as the king of Israel. The city was sacked by the Samaritans in 529 CE, during their revolt, but was rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. Bethlehem was conquered by the Arab Caliphate of 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb in 637, who guaranteed safety for the city's religious shrines. In 1099, Crusaders captured and fortified Bethlehem and replaced its Greek Orthodox clergy with a Latin one. The Latin clergy were expelled after the city was captured by Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria. With the coming of the Mamluks in 1250, the city's walls were demolished, and were subsequently rebuilt during the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottomans lost the city to the British during World War I and it was to be included in an international zone under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Jordan occupied the city in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and it was subsequently occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel has retained control over the entrances and exits to Bethlehem, though day-to-day administration has been under the purview of the Palestinian National Authority since 1995.

Modern Bethlehem has a Muslim majority but is also home to one of the largest Palestinian Christian communities. Bethlehem agglomeration includes the towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, as well as the refugee camps of 'Aida and Azza. Bethlehem's dominant economic sector is tourism which is particularly high during the Christmas season as the city is a Christian pilgrimage center, being home of the Church of the Nativity. Bethlehem has over thirty hotels and three hundred handicraft work shops, employing several of the city's residents. Rachel's Tomb, an important Jewish holy site, is located at the entrance of Bethlehem.

Bethlehem, located in the "hill country" of Judah, may be the same as the Biblical Ephrath, which means "fertile": There is a possible reference to it as Beth-Lehem Ephratah. It is also known as Beth-Lehem Judah, and "the city of David". It is first mentioned in the Tanakh and the Bible as the place where the Abrahamic matriarch Rachel died and was buried "by the wayside" (Gen. 48:7). Rachel's Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem. According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moab gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. Bethlehem is the traditional birthplace of David, the second king of Israel, and the place where he was anointed king by Samuel. It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam.

Between 132-135 the city was occupied by the Romans after its capture during the Bar Kokhba Revolt. Its Jewish residents were expelled by the military orders of Hadrian. While ruling Bethlehem, the Romans built a shrine to the mythical Greek cult figure Adonis on the site of the Nativity. A church was erected in 326, when Helena, the mother of the first Byzantine emperor Constantine, visited Bethlehem.

During the Samaritan revolt of 529, Bethlehem was sacked and its walls and the Church of the Nativity destroyed, but they were soon rebuilt on the orders of the Emperor Justinian I. In 614, the Persian Sassanid Empire invaded Palestine and captured Bethlehem. A story recounted in later sources holds that they refrained from destroying the church on seeing the magi depicted in Persian clothing in a mosaic.

Two accounts in the New Testament describe Jesus as born in Bethlehem. According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus' parents lived in Nazareth but traveled to Bethlehem for the census of CE 6, and Jesus was born there before the family returned to Nazareth.

The antiquity of the tradition of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem is attested by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr, who stated in his Dialogue with Trypho (c. 155-161) that the Holy Family had taken refuge in a cave outside of the town. Origen of Alexandria, writing around the year 247, referred to a cave in the town of Bethlehem which local people believed was the birthplace of Jesus. This cave was possibly one which had previously been a site of the cult of Tammuz.

In 637, shortly after Jerusalem was captured by the Muslim armies, 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb, the second Caliph visited Bethlehem and promised that the Church of the Nativity would be preserved for Christian use. A mosque dedicated to Umar was built upon the place in the city where he prayed, next to the church. Bethlehem then passed from the control of the Islamic caliphates of the Ummayads in the 8th century, then the Abbasids in the 9th century. Persian geographer recorded in the mid-9th century that a well preserved and much venerated church existed in the town. In 985, Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi visited Bethlehem, and referred to its church as the "Basilica of Constantine, the equal of which does not exist anywhere in the country-round." In 1009, during the reign of the sixth Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, the Church of the Nativity was demolished under his orders. It was soon rebuilt by his successor Ali az-Zahir to mend relations between the Fatimids and the Byzantine Empire.

In 1099, Bethlehem was captured by the Crusaders, who fortified it and built a new monastery and cloister on the north side of the Church of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox clergy were removed from their Sees and replaced with Latin clerics. Up until that point the official Christian presence in the region was Greek Orthodox. On Christmas Day 1100 Baldwin I, first king of the Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem, was crowned in Bethlehem, and that year a Latin episcopate was also established in the town.

In 1187, Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria who led the Muslim Ayyubids, captured Bethlehem from the Crusaders. The Latin clerics were forced to leave, allowing the Greek Orthodox clergy to return. Saladin agreed to the return of two Latin priests and two deacons in 1192. However, Bethlehem suffered from the loss of the pilgrim trade, as there was a sharp decrease of European pilgrims.

William IV, Count of Nevers had promised the Christian bishops of Bethlehem that if Bethlehem should fall under Muslim control, he would welcome them in the small town of Clamecy in present-day Burgundy, France. As such, The Bishop of Bethlehem duly took up residence in the hospital of Panthenor, Clamecy in 1223. Clamecy remained the continuous 'in partibus infidelium' seat of the Bishopric of Bethlehem for almost 600 years, until the French Revolution in 1789.

Bethlehem — along with Jerusalem, Nazareth and Sidon — was briefly ceded to the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem by a treaty between Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil in 1229, in return for a ten-year truce between the Ayyubids and the Crusaders. The treaty expired in 1239 and Bethlehem was recaptured by the Muslims in 1244.

In 1250, with the coming to power of the Mamluks under Rukn al-Din Baibars, tolerance of Christianity declined; the clergies left the city, and in 1263 the town walls were demolished. The Latin clergy returned to Bethlehem the following century, establishing themselves in the monastery adjoining the Basilica of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox were given control of the basilica and shared control of the Milk Grotto with the Latins and the Armenians.

From 1517, during the years of Ottoman control, custody of the Basilica was bitterly disputed between the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. From 1831 to 1841, Palestine was under the rule Muhammad Ali Dynasty of Egypt. During this period, the town suffered an earthquake as well as the destruction of the Muslim quarter by Egyptian troops, apparently as a reprisal for the murder of a favored loyalist of Ibrahim Pasha.

In 1841, Bethlehem came under Ottoman rule once more and remained so until the end of the World War I. Under the Ottomans, Bethlehem's inhabitants faced unemployment, compulsory military service and heavy taxes, resulting in mass emigration particularly to South America.

In 1867 an American visitor describes the town as having a population of 3,000 to 4,000; of whom about 100 were Protestants, 300 were Moslems and 'the remainder belonging to the Latin and Greek Churches with a few Armenians'.

As a result of their victory in World War I, the Allies, particularly Britain and France, divided the captured Ottoman provinces into mandates. On September 29, 1923 Bethlehem and the majority of the territory west of the Jordan River fell under the control of the British Mandate of Palestine. In the United Nations General Assembly's 1947 resolution to partition Palestine, Bethlehem was included in the special international enclave of Jerusalem to be administered by the United Nations.

Jordan occupied the city during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Many refugees from areas captured by Israeli forces in 1947-48 fled to the Bethlehem area, primarily settling in the what became the official refugee camps of 'Azza (Beit Jibrin) and 'Aida in the north and Dheisheh in the south. The influx of refugees significantly transformed Bethlehem's Christian majority into a Muslim one.

Jordan retained control of the city until the Six-Day War in 1967, when Bethlehem was occupied by Israel, along with the rest of the West Bank. On December 21, 1995, Israeli troops withdrew from Bethlehem, and three days later the city came under the complete administration and military control of the Palestinian National Authority in conformance with the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1995.

During the Second Palestinian Intifada, which began in 2000-01, Bethlehem's infrastructure and tourism industry was severely damaged. In 2002, it was a primary combat zone in Operation Defensive Shield, a major military offensive by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

During the operation, the IDF besieged the Church of the Nativity, where about 200 Palestinians, including a group of militants, sought refuge amid IDF advancements into the city. The siege lasted for thirty nine days and nine militants and the church's bellringer were killed. It ended with an agreement to exile thirteen of the wanted militants to various European nations and Mauritania. Pope John Paul II condemned Israel's actions, describing them as reaching "unimaginable and intolerable" levels and the United Kingdom's foreign ministry stated they were "totally unacceptable".

Bethlehem stands at an elevation of about 775 meters (2,543 ft) above sea level, 30 meters (98 ft) higher than nearby Jerusalem. Bethlehem is situated on the southern portion in the Judean Mountains.

The city is located 73 kilometers (45 mi) northeast of Gaza and the Mediterranean Sea, 75 kilometers (47 mi) west of Amman, Jordan, 59 kilometers (37 mi) southeast of Tel Aviv, Israel and 10 kilometers (6 mi) south of Jerusalem. Nearby cities and towns include Beit Safafa and Jerusalem to the north, Beit Jala to the northwest, Husan to the west, al-Khadr and Artas to the southwest, and Beit Sahour to the east. Beit Jala and the latter form an agglomeration with Bethlehem and the Aida and Azza refugee camps are located within the city limits.

In the center of Bethlehem, is its old city. The old city consists of eight quarters, laid out in a mosaic style, forming the area around the Manger Square. The quarters, include the Christian al-Najajreh, al-Farahiyeh, al-Anatreh, al-Tarajmeh, al-Qawawsa and Hreizat quarters and al-Fawaghreh — the only Muslim quarter. Most of the Christian quarters are named after the Arab Ghassanid clans that settled there. Al-Qawawsa Quarter was formed by Arab Christian emigrants from the nearby town of Tuqu' in the 18th century. There is also a Syriac quarter outside of the old city, whose inhabitants originate from Midyat in Turkey. The total population of the old city is about 5,000.

Bethlehem has a Mediterranean climate, with hot and dry summers and cold winters. Temperatures in the winter season, from mid-December to mid-March, could be cold and rainy. January is the coldest month, with temperatures ranging from 1 to 13 degree Celsius (33–55 °F). From May through September, the weather is warm and sunny. August is the hottest month, with a high of 27 degrees Celsius (81 °F). Bethlehem receives an average of 700 millimeters (27.6 in) of rainfall annually, 70% between November and January.

Bethlehem's average annual relative humidity is 60% and reaches its highest rates between January and February. Humidity levels are at their lowest in May. Night dew may occur in up to 180 days per year. The city is influenced by the Mediterranean Sea breeze that occurs around mid-day. However, Bethlehem is affected also by annual waves of hot, dry, sandy and dust Khamaseen winds that originate from the Arabian Desert, during April, May and mid-June.

According to a PCBS estimate, Bethlehem had a population of 29,930 in mid-year 2006. In the PCBS's 1997 census, the city had a population of 21,670, including a total of 6,570 refugees, accounting for 30.3% of the city's population. In 1998, the religious makeup of the city was 13% Sunni Muslim and 85% Christian, mostly of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations. In 2005, the total Christian population decreased to about 20%. . The only mosque in the city is the Mosque of Omar, located in the Manger Square.

In 1997, the age distribution of Bethlehem's inhabitants was 27.4% under the age of 10, 20% from 10 to 19, 17.3% from 20-29, 17.7% from 30 to 44, 12.1% from 45-64 and 5.3% above the age of 65. There were 11,079 males and 10,594 females.

The majority of Bethlehem's Christian inhabitants claim ancestry from Arab Christian clans from the Arabian Peninsula, including the city's two largest: al-Farahiyya and an-Najajreh. The former claims to have descended from the Ghassanids who migrated from Yemen to the Wadi Musa area in present-day Jordan and an-Najajreh descend from the Arabs of Najran in the southern Hejaz. Another Bethlehem clan, al-Anantreh, also trace their ancestry to the Arabian Peninsula.

Palestinian Authority rule following the Interim Agreements is officially committed to equality for Bethlehem area Christians, although there have been a few incidents of violence against them by the Preventive Security Service and militant factions.

The outbreak of the Second Intifada and the resultant decrease in tourism has also affected the Christian minority, leaving many economically stricken as they are the owners of many Bethlehem hotels and services which cater to foreign tourists. A statistical analysis of why Christians are leaving the area blamed the lack of economic and educational opportunities, especially due to the Christians' middle-class status and higher education. Since the Second Intifada, 10% of the Christian population have left the city.

A 2006 poll of Bethlehem's Christians conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Research and Cultural Dialogue, found that 90% reported having Muslim friends, 73.3% agreed that the Palestinian National Authority treats Christian heritage in the city with respect and 78% attributed the ongoing exodus of Christians from Bethlehem to the Israeli travel restrictions in the area.

The Hamas government's official position has been to support the city's Christian population, though the party at times has been criticized by some anonymous residents for increasing the Islamic presence in the city by, for example, activating the call to prayer at a previously unused local mosque in a Christian neighborhood. According to the Jerusalem Post, under Hamas, the Christian population faces a lack of law and order which has left it susceptible to land theft by local mafia who take advantage of ineffective courts and the perception that the Christian population is less likely to stand up for itself.

Shopping is a major sector in Bethlehem, especially during the Christmas season. The city's main streets and old markets are lined with shops selling handicrafts, Middle Eastern spices, jewelry and oriental sweets such as baklawa.

The tradition of making handicrafts in the city dates back to its founding. Numerous shops in Bethlehem sell olive wood carvings — for which the city is renowned — made from the local olive groves. The carvings are the main product purchased by tourists visiting Bethlehem. Religious handicrafts are also a major industry in Bethlehem, and some products include ornaments handmade from mother-of-pearl, as well as olive wood statues, boxes, and crosses. The art of creating mother-of-pearl handicrafts was introduced to Bethlehem by Franciscan friars from Damascus during the 14th century. Stone and marble-cutting, textiles, furniture and furnishings are other prevalent industries. Bethlehem also produces paints, plastics, synthetic rubber, pharmaceuticals, construction materials and food products, mainly pasta and confectionery.

Bethlehem has a wine-producing company, Cremisan Wine, founded in 1885, that currently exports wine to several countries. The wine is produced by monks in the Monastery of Cremisan, and the majority of the grapes are harvested from the al-Khader area. The monastery's wine production is around 700,000 liters per year.

Tourism is Bethlehem's primary industry and unlike other Palestinian localities before 2000, the majority of the working residents did not work in Israel. Over 25% of the working population was employed directly or indirectly in the industry. Tourism accounts for approximately 65% of the city's economy and 11% of the Palestinian National Authority.

The Church of the Nativity is one of Bethlehem's major tourist attractions and a magnet for Christian pilgrims. It stands in the center of the city — a part of the Manger Square — over a grotto or cave called the Holy Crypt, where Jesus was born. Nearby is the Milk Grotto where the Holy Family took refuge on their Flight to Egypt and next door is the cave where St. Jerome spent thirty years translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Latin.

There are over thirty hotels in Bethlehem. Jacir Palace, built in 1910 near the church, is one of Bethlehem's most successful hotels and its oldest. It was closed down in 2000 due to the violence of the Second Intifada, but reopened in 2005.

Bethlehem hosted the largest ever economic conference in the Palestinian territories on May 21, 2008. It was initiated by Palestinian Prime Minister and former Finance Minister Salam Fayyad to convince over 1,000 businessmen, bankers and government officials from throughout the Middle East to invest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, although Fayyad admitted the territories were "far from the perfect business environment", being directly linked with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nonetheless, 1.4 billion US dollars was secured for business investments in the Palestinian territories.

Less formal dresses in Bethlehem were generally made of indigo fabric and a sleeveless coat (bisht), made from locally woven wool, was worn over top. Dresses for special occasions were made of striped silk with winged sleeves and the short taqsireh jacket, known throughout Palestinian as the Bethlehem jacket, was worn over it. The taqsireh was made of velvet or broadcloth, usually with heavy embroidery.

Bethlehem work was unique in its use of couched gold or silver cord, or silk cord onto the silk, wool, felt or velvet used for the garment, to create stylized floral patterns with free or rounded lines. This technique was used for "royal" wedding dresses (thob malak), taqsirehs and the shatwehs worn by married women. It has been traced by some to Byzantium, and by others to the more formal costumes of the Ottoman Empire's elite. As Bethlehem was a Christian village, local women were also exposed to the detailing on church vestments with their heavy embroidery and silver brocade.

The art of mother-of-pearl carving has been a Bethlehem tradition since the 14th century when it was introduced to the city by Franciscan friars from Damascus. Bethlehem's position as an important Christian city has for centuries attracted a constant stream of pilgrims. This generated much local work and income, also for women, including making mother-of-pearl souvenirs. It was noted by Richard Pococke, who travelled there in 1727.

Present day products include crosses, earrings, brooches, maps of Palestine, and picture frames.

Bethlehem is home to the Palestinian Heritage Center, established in 1991. The center aims to preserve and promote Palestinian embroidery, art and folklore. The International Center of Bethlehem is another cultural center that concentrates primarily on the culture of Bethlehem. It provides language and guide training, woman's studies and arts and crafts displays, and training.

A branch of the the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music is located in Bethlehem and has about 500 students. Its primary goals are to teach children music, train teachers for other schools, sponsor music research, and the study of Palestinian folklore music.

Bethlehem has four museums located within its municipal borders. The Crib of the Nativity Theatre and Museum offers visitors 31 3D models depicting the significant stages of the life of Jesus. Its theater presents a 20-minute animated show. The Badd Giacaman Museum, located in the Old City of Bethlehem, dates back to the 18th century and is primarily dedicated to the history and process of olive oil production.

Baituna al-Talhami Museum, established in 1972, contains displays of the culture of Bethlehem's inhabitants. The International Museum of Nativity was designed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the purpose of showing works of "high artistic quality in an evocative atmosphere".

Christmas rites are held in Bethlehem on three different dates: December 25 is the traditional date by the Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations, but Greek, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 6 and Armenian Orthodox Christians on January 19. Most Christmas processions pass through Manger Square, the plaza outside the Basilica of the Nativity. Catholic services take place in St. Catherine's Church and Protestants often hold services at Shepherds' Fields.

Bethlehem, like other Palestinian localities, participates in festivals related to saints and prophets that are attached to Palestinian folklore. One such festival is the annual Feast of Saint George (al-Khadr) on 5 May-6 May. During the celebrations, Greek Orthodox Christians from the city march in procession to the nearby town of al-Khader to baptize newborns in the waters around the Monastery of St. George and sacrifice a sheep in ritual.

The Feast of St. Elijah (Mar Elias) is held in a similar way, except the procession is towards the Monastery of St. Elijah to the north of Bethlehem. The feast commemorates the miracles attributed to the saint, a popular figure in Palestine. Prior, to restrictions imposed on the residents by Israel, local Christians used to visit the monastery, bringing various gifts, such as bread, olive oil and candles. The candles would be lit and the oil would be placed in front of icons in the church, while the bread was handed to the monks.

Bethlehem is the muhfaza (seat) or district capital of the Bethlehem Governorate.

Bethlehem held its first municipal elections in 1876, after the mukhtars ("heads") the quarters of Bethlehem's Old City (excluding the Syriac Quarter) made the decision to elect a local council of seven members to represent each clan in the town. A Basic Law was established so that if the victor for mayor was a Catholic, his deputy should be of the Greek Orthodox community.

Throughout, Bethlehem's rule by the British and Jordan, the Syriac Quarter was allowed to participate in the election, as were the Ta'amrah Bedouins and Palestinian refugees, hence ratifying the amount of municipal members in the council to eleven. In 1976, an amendment was passed to allow women to vote and become council members and later the voting age was increased from 21 to 25.

Today, the Bethlehem Municipal Council consists of fifteen elected members, including the mayor and deputy mayor. A special statute requires that the mayor and a majority of the municipal council be Christian, while the remainder are open seats, not restricted to any religion.

There are several branches of political parties on the council, including Communist, Islamist, and secular. The leftist factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Palestinian People's Party (PPP) usually dominate the reserved seats. Hamas gained the majority of the open seats in the 2005 Palestinian municipal elections.

The mayor and the deputy mayor of Bethlehem are required by municipal law to be Christian.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), in 1997, approximately 84% of Bethlehem's population over the age of 10 was literate. Of the city's population, 10,414 were enrolled in schools (4,015 in primary school, 3,578 in secondary and 2,821 in high school). About 14.1% of high school students received diplomas. There were 135 schools in the Bethlehem Governorate in 2006; 100 run the Education Ministry of the Palestinian National Authority, seven by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and 28 were private.

Bethlehem is home to Bethlehem University, a Catholic Christian co-educational institution of higher learning founded in 1973 in the Lasallian tradition, open to students of all faiths. Bethlehem University is the first university established in the West Bank, and can trace its roots to 1893 when the De La Salle Christian Brothers opened schools throughout Palestine and Egypt.

Bethlehem has three bus stations owned by private companies which offer service to Jerusalem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Hebron, Nahalin, Battir, al-Khader, al-Ubeidiya and Beit Fajjar. There are two taxi stations that make trips to Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, Jerusalem, Tuqu' and Herodium. There are also two car rental departments: Murad and 'Orabi. Buses and taxis with West Bank licenses are not allowed to enter Israel, including Jerusalem, without a permit.

The Israeli construction of the West Bank barrier has had an impact on Bethlehem politically, socially, and economically. The barrier runs along the northern side of the town's built-up area, within meters of houses in 'Aida refugee camp on one side, and the Jerusalem municipality on the other.

Most entrances and exits from the Bethlehem agglomeration to the rest of the West Bank are currently subject to Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks. The level of access varies based on Israeli security directives. Travel for Bethlehem's Palestinian residents from the West Bank into Israeli-annexed Jerusalem is regulated by a permit-system. Acquiring such permits to enter, what in the past served in many ways as an urban anchor to Bethlehem, has become exceedingly rare since the onset of the violence surrounding the Second Intifada, though Israel has subsequently erected a terminal to ease transit between the two adjoining cities.

Palestinians are not allowed to enter the Jewish holy site of Rachel's Tomb, which is on the outskirts of the city, without a permit. Since Bethlehem and the nearby biblical Solomon's Pools lie in Area A (territory under both PNA military and civil administration), Israeli citizens are barred without a permit from the Israeli military authorities.

Bethlehem has the following sister cities.

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Bethlehem (disambiguation)

The original settlement of Bethlehem in Judea stands in the West Bank area of Palestine.

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Bethlehem Governorate

The Bethlehem Governorate (Arabic: محافظة بيت لحم‎) is one of 16 Governorates of the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the Palestinian Territories. It covers an area of the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. It's principal city and district capital is Bethlehem Municipality. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, its population was 180,116 in mid-year 2006.

According to the Bethlehem Municipality, the city has a total area of 575 km² (222.3 mi²). Of this area, 80 km² (30.8 mi²) in currently under the control of the Palestinian National Authority.

Politically, the Bethlehem Governorate is something of a stronghold of the Palestinian left. At the Palestinian legislative election, 2006 the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and The Alternative both had their best votes there. Its current governor is Salah al-Tamari.

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Bethlehem Steel

Bethlehem Steel Works, a watercolor by Joseph Pennell, depicting Bethlehem Iron Company in May 1881.

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation (1857–2003), based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was once the second-largest steel producer in the United States, after Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based U.S. Steel. After a decline in the U.S. steel industry and management problems leading to the company's 2001 bankruptcy, the company was dissolved and the remaining assets sold to International Steel Group in 2003. In 2005, ISG merged with Mittal Steel, ending U.S. ownership of the assets of Bethlehem Steel.

Bethlehem Steel was also one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the world and one of the most powerful symbols of American industrial manufacturing leadership. Bethlehem Steel's demise is often cited as one of the most prominent examples of the U.S. economy's shift away from industrial manufacturing and its inability to compete with cheap foreign labor.

The company's roots go back to 1857 when the Saucona Iron Company was first organized by Augustus Wolle. The Panic of 1857, a national financial crisis, halted further organization of the company and construction of the works. Eventually, the organization was completed, the site moved elsewhere in South Bethlehem, and the company's name was changed to The Bethlehem Rolling Mill and Iron Company. On June 14, 1860, the board of directors of the fledgling company elected Alfred Hunt president. On May 1, 1861, the company's title was changed again, this time to The Bethlehem Iron Company. Construction of the first blast furnace began on July 1, 1861, and it went into operation on January 4, 1863. The first rolling mill was built between the spring of 1861 and the summer of 1863, with the first railroad rails being rolled on September 26. A machine shop, in 1865, and another blast furnace, in 1867, were completed. During its early years, the company produced rails for the rapidly expanding railroads and armor plating for the US Navy.

In 1899, the company assumed the name Bethlehem Steel Company. In 1904, Charles M. Schwab and Joseph Wharton formed the Bethlehem Steel Corporation with Schwab becoming its first president and chairman of its board of directors.

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation ascended to great prominence in American industry, installing the revolutionary grey rolling mill and producing the first wide-flange structural shapes to be made in America. These shapes were largely responsible for ushering in the age of the skyscraper and establishing Bethlehem Steel as the leading supplier of steel to the construction industry.

In the early 1900s, the corporation branched out from steel, with iron mines in Cuba and shipyards around the country. In 1913, it acquired the Fore River Shipbuilding Company of Quincy, Massachusetts, thereby assuming the role of one of the world's major shipbuilders. In 1917 it incorporated its shipbuilding division as Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Limited., also known as BethShip. In 1922, it purchased the Lackawanna Steel Company, which included the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad as well as extensive coal holdings.

Although the company continued to prosper during the early 1880s, its share of the rail market began to decline in the face of competition from growing Pittsburgh-based firms such as the Carnegie Steel Company. The nation's decision to rebuild the United States Navy with steam-driven, steel-hulled warships, reshaped Bethlehem Iron Company's destiny.

Among the world's strongest and most innovative maritime forces during the Civil War, the Navy quickly shrank after the end of hostilities, as national energies were deflected toward settling the West and rebuilding the war-ravaged South. Almost no new ordnance was produced, and new technology was neglected. By 1881, embarrassing international incidents highlighted the deplorable condition of the U.S. fleet and the need to rebuild it to protect U.S. trade and prestige.

In 1883, Secretary of the Navy William E. Chandler and Secretary of the Army Robert Todd Lincoln appointed Lt. William Jaques to the Gun Foundry Board. Jaques was sent on several fact-finding tours of European armament makers and on one of these trips he formed business ties with the firm of Joseph Whitworth of Manchester, England. He returned to America as Whitworth's agent and, in 1885, was granted an extended furlough to pursue this personal interest. This type of activity marked the beginning of what would, some 75 years later, become known as the military-industrial complex.

Jaques was aware that the U.S. Navy would soon solicit bids for the production of heavy guns and other products such as armor that would be needed to further expand the fleet. Jaques contacted the Bethlehem Iron Company with a proposal to serve as an intermediary between it and the Whitworth Company, so that Bethlehem could erect a heavy-forging plant to produce ordnance. In 1885, John Fritz, accompanied by Bethlehem Iron Company directors Robert H. Sayre, E.P. Wilbur, William Thurston, and Joseph Wharton, met with Jaques in Philadelphia. In early 1886, a contract between Bethlehem Iron and the Whitworth Company had been executed.

In spring 1886, Congress passed a naval appropriations bill that authorized the construction of two armored second-class battleships, one protected cruiser, one first-class torpedo boat, and the complete rebuilding and modernization of two Civil War-era monitors. The two second-class battleships (the USS Texas and the USS Maine) would have both large-caliber guns (12" and 10" respectively) and heavy armor plating. Bethlehem secured both the forging and armor contracts on June 28, 1887.

Between 1888 and 1892, the Bethlehem Iron Company completed the first U.S. heavy-forging plant. It was designed by John Fritz with the assistance of Russell Wheeler Davenport, who had entered Bethlehem's employ in 1888. By autumn 1890, Bethlehem Iron was delivering gun forging to the U.S. Navy and was completing facilities to provide armor plating.

During World War I and World War II, Bethlehem Steel was a major supplier of armor plate and ordnance to the U.S. armed forces, including armor plate and large-caliber guns for the Navy.

During World War II, as much as 70 percent of airplane cylinder forgings, one-quarter of the armor plate for warships, and one-third of the big cannon forgings for the U.S armed forces were turned out by Bethlehem Steel.

Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation's 15 shipyards produced a total of 1,121 ships, more than any other builder during the war and nearly one-fifth of the U.S. Navy's two-ocean fleet. It employed as many as 180,000 persons, the bulk of the company's total employment of 300,000.

It was Eugene Grace who orchestrated Bethlehem's wartime heroics. Entering 1943, he promised President Roosevelt one ship a day, and ultimately beat that mark by 15 ships.

When peacetime came, the plant continued to supply a wide variety of structural shapes for the construction trades and forged products for defense, power generation and steel-producing companies.

The U.S. steel industry prospered during and after World War II, while the steel industries in Germany and Japan lay devastated by Allied bombardment. Bethlehem Steel's high point came in the 1950s, as the company began manufacturing some 23 million tons per year. In 1958, the company's president, Arthur B. Homer, was the highest-paid U.S. business executive. The firm built its largest plant, at Burns Harbor, Indiana, between 1962 and 1964.

The U.S. advantage lasted about two decades, during which the U.S. steel industry operated with little foreign competition. But eventually, the foreign firms were rebuilt with modern techniques such as continuous casting, while profitable U.S. companies resisted modernization. Meanwhile, U.S. steelworkers were given rising benefits.

By the 1970s, imported foreign steel was generally cheaper than domestically produced steel.

In 1982, Bethlehem reported a loss of US$1.5 billion and shut down many of its operations. Profitability returned briefly in 1988, but restructuring and shutdowns continued through the 1990s.

In the mid-1980s, demand for the plant's structural products began to diminish, and new competition entered the marketplace. Lighter, lower construction styles, resulting in low-rise buildings not requiring the heavy structural grades produced at the Bethlehem plant.

In 1991, Bethlehem Steel discontinued coal mining (under the name BethEnergy). At the end of 1995, it closed steel-making at the main Bethlehem plant.

After roughly 140 years of metal production at its Bethlehem, Pennsylvania plant, Bethlehem Steel ceased operations in Bethlehem. Bethlehem Steel exited the railroad car business in 1993 and ceased shipbuilding activities in 1997 in an attempt to preserve its steel-making operations.

Despite the closing of its local operations, Bethlehem Steel tried to reduce the impact on the Lehigh Valley area with plans to revitalize the south side of Bethlehem. It hired consultants to develop conceptual plans on the reuse of the massive property. The consensus was to rename the 163-acre (660,000 m²) site Bethlehem Works and to use the land for cultural, recreational, educational, entertainment and retail development. The National Museum of Industrial History, in association with the Smithsonian Institution and the Bethlehem Commerce Center, consisting of 1,600 acres (6.5 km²) of prime industrial property, would be erected on the site along with a casino and large retail and entertainment complex.

Inexpensive steel imports and the failure of management to innovate, embrace technology, and improve labor conditions contributed to Bethlehem's demise. Critics of protectionist steel trade policies attribute the cause of this lack of competitiveness to American steel producers like Bethlehem having been shielded from foreign competition by quotas, voluntary export restraints, minimum price undertakings, and antidumping and countervailing duty measures which were in effect for the three decades preceding Bethlehem Steel's collapse.

In 2001, Bethlehem Steel filed for bankruptcy. In 2003, the company's remnants, including its six massive plants, were acquired by the International Steel Group.

In 2007, the Bethlehem property was sold to Sands BethWorks, and plans for a casino to be built where the plant once stood were drafted. Construction began in fall 2007; the casino is expected to be completed by 2009. Ironically, the casino had difficulty finding structural steel for construction, thanks to a global steel shortage and pressure to build Pennsylvania's tax-generating casinos. 16,000 tons of steel will be needed to build the $600 million complex.

Bethlehem Steel fabricated much of the steel used in the dome over the ice rink of the George Meehan Auditorium at Brown University, and the largest electric generator shaft in the world, produced for General Electric in the 1950s.

From 1923 to 1991, Bethlehem Steel was one of the world's leading producers of railroad freight cars through their purchase of the former Midvale Steel and Ordinance Company, whose railcar division was at Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Despite its status as a major integrated steel maker, Bethlehem Steel Freight Car Division pioneered the use of aluminum in freight car construction. The Johnstown plant was purchased from Bethlehem Steel through a management buyout in 1991, creating Johnstown America Industries.

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Bethlehem of Galilee

Bethlehem of Galilee is located in Israel

Bethlehem of Galilee (Hebrew: בֵּית לֶחֶם הַגְּלִילִית‎, Beit Lehem HaGlilit; literally "the Galilean Bethlehem") is a semi-cooperative moshav in northern Israel. Located in the Galilee near Kiryat Tivon, around 10 kilometres north-west of Nazareth and 30 kilometres east of Haifa, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Jezreel Valley Regional Council. In 2006, it had a population of 651.

A former Templer colony, it is mentioned in the Book of Joshua (19:15) as the city of the Tribe of Zebulun.

The hometown of the judge Ibzan, Bethlehem of Galilee was inhabited by Jews until some time after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. In the Jerusalem Talmud it is referred to as Beth Lehem Zoria, as it was part of the kingdom of Tyre at the time. During the Crusades, it was a small Christian town of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, later abandoned.

Due to its proximity to Nazareth, some historians believe that this is the Bethelehem where Jesus was born. Aviram Oshri, a senior archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, supports this claim. Until the late 19th century, ruins of a church and a synagogue could be seen there, and archeological findings show it was a prosperous city. Some scholars regard Bethlehem of Galilee as one of the birthplaces of Rabbinical Judaism.

In 1906 Templers from the German Colony in Haifa established a colony in the Galilee, naming it for the ancient city. Most Templers bore German citizenship. In 1932 the Nazi party won the first two members in Palestine, Karl Ruff and Walter Aberle from the Templer colony in Haifa. In the course of the 1930s also Bethlehemites joined the Nazi party, indicating the fading affinity to the Templers' original ideals. Until August 1939 17% of all Gentile Germans in Palestine were enrolled as member of the Nazi party. After the Nazi takeover in Germany the new Reich's government streamlined the foreign policy according to Nazi ideals, using especially financial pressure. The Nazi emphasis was to create the image, that Germany and Germanness are equal to Nazism, thus all non-Nazi attitudes of German culture and identity were discriminated as un-German. All international schools of German language subsidised or fully financed with government funds were subjected to redraw their educational programmes and to solely employ teachers aligned to the Nazi party. The teachers in Bethlehem were financed by the Reich's government, so that also here Nazi teachers took over. In 1933 Templer functionaries and other Gentile Germans living in Palestine appealed at Paul von Hindenburg and the Foreign Office not to use Swastika symbols for German institutions, without success. Some German Gentiles from Palestine pleaded the Reich's government to drop its plan to boycott shops of Jewish Germans on April 1, 1933. Later the opposition of Gentile Germans in Palestine acquiesed. A Palestinian branch of the Hitler youth was built up by the help of government subsidies. By 1935 the Nazis had succeeded to streamline the municipal bodies of the settlements of Gentile Germans in Palestine. On August 20, 1939 the German government ordered the Gentile German men for recruitment in the Wehrmacht. 350 followed the call.

After Germany had started the Second World War all Germans in Palestine turned into Enemy aliens. The British authorities decided to intern most of the enemy aliens. For this purpose four settlements Sarona, Bethlehem (Galilee), Waldheim (today's Allonei Abba) and Wilhelma were converted into internment camps. Most enemy aliens living elsewhere in Palestine - comprising Gentile Germans, Hungarians and Italians - were interned in one of the settlements, while the inhabitants of the settlements simply stayed where they were. In summer 1941, 665 German internees, almost all young families with children, were released to Australia, where they could settle again. Many of the remaining Germans were either too old or too sick, to leave for Australia, while a second group did not want to go there. With the help of the interned Italians and Hungarians the internees could maintain the agricultural production, to feed themselves and supply surplus to the general markets in return for supplies not available within the camps. In December 1941 and in the course of 1942 another 400 German internees, mostly wives and children of men, who had followed the calls for recruitment, were released - via Turkey - to Germany on the purpose of Family reunification.

In 1945 the Italian and Hungarian internees were released from Bethlehem and the other camps. But the Britons refused to repatriate the remaining German internees to the British zone in Germany, because the British zone was flooded with millions of war refugees and more millions of post-war expellees from Poland, Czechoslovakia etc. Also most of the internees did not want to go to Germany, because there was no chance to gain untilled land in Germany to settle again as farmers. In 1947 the British authorities and Australia agreed to allow the remaining German internees to emigrate to the fifth continent. The end of the Mandate forced to hurry the resettlement, thus all the internees were first transferred to Cyprus, to a camp of simple tents near Famagusta. The internees of Bethlehem could leave the place safely. On April 17, 1948 armed Jewish Palestinians conquered the neighboured internment camp of Waldheim, killing two colonists and severely wounding a woman. By May 14, 1948, when Israel became independent, only about 50 Gentile Germans, mostly elderly and sick persons, were living in the new state. They voluntarily left the country or were successively expelled by the government.

On 17 April 1948, the Haganah captured the village and it was resettled by Jewish farmers. Much of the original Templer architecture survives, and is similar in style to the homes built by the Templers in other parts of the country, such as Sarona in Tel Aviv, and the German colonies of Haifa and Jerusalem.

In recent years, tourism has replaced agriculture as the main economic branch. A dairy, a herb farm, restaurants and country-style accommodation are among the tourist-oriented businesses in the village today.

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Source : Wikipedia