Christmas Destinations: Bethlehem, West Bank

There's more to Christmas than carols, eggnog, and ugly sweaters. Broaden your horizons with a visit to one of these five holiday-friendly destinations.

Dec 20, 2012
Outside Magazine
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The Bethlehem Residence, West Bank.    Photo: Wikipedia

Remember that one Christmas story about the three guys bringing gifts to a baby in a manger? In Bethlehem, you can go back to where it started. The narrow streets of this ancient hillside city are packed and crazy during the holiday season, but that’s the point. Travel back through time in the Old City to observe midnight mass on Christmas Eve in Manger Square, or cram into the Church of the Nativity, built by the Romans roughly 1,700 years ago.

SIDE ADVENTURE: Bethlehem’s significance in history dates well before the baby Jesus, as you’ll see if you go south of town to hike around Solomon’s Pools. These stone reservoirs received biblical mention and supplied water to Jerusalem nearly 3,000 years ago. An afternoon’s hike will take you around the pools, past the Ottoman garrison Murad Castle, and into the surprisingly verdant, inviting town of Artas. The pools are accessible by taxi.

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