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Jerusalem or Bethlehem

Hello!

We will be joining a church pilgrimage in Bethlehem. I arrive in Tel aviv with my mom and sister and will be traveling via public transportation to Bethlehem. We arrive at 8AM the rest that same day at 11:30 PM. I was thinking whether it makes sense to spend the night in Jerusalem (then travel to Bethlehem early in the morning the following day). Are there more things to do there?

Thanks!

Julia

Posted by
487 posts

You mention a tour, are you going back to Jerusalem as part of the tour or would that day be your only time in Jerusalem? How much time is your tour group spending in Bethlehem and are there things there that you want to see that are not covered by the tour? What time does your tour group meet up the next day? What types of activities are you looking to do on your first day? What month will this be?

That is a lot of questions but some of those may impact the recommendation. Since Bethlehem is in the West Bank, I assume you are comfortable touring there alone and not as part of the tour group?

Posted by
18 posts

Hello:

It will be in November. We have a whole tour arranged with day trips from Bethlehem. Since it is our first day we want just to be able to walk around, perhaps visit a market. We have an activity the following day but not until 11AM. If we stay in Jerusamel, ideally, I would like to get to Bethlehem as early as possible.

Julia

Posted by
5630 posts

I visited Israel in December 1985, so take my comments in that context.

Bethlehem is about 5 miles south of Jerusalem, but is in the West Bank. When I visited in 1985 there were many Israeli soldiers evident providing security for the many tourists.

I had a frlend that was a Christian Arab, who was born in Bethlehem and he told me it was predominately Christian. I have read the many Christian Arabs have left Bethlehem and the West Bank. I don't know how well security is in Bethlehem, but probably staying in Jerusalem is more secure. We also visited Hebron, on our tour that stopped in Bethlehem, that was a supercharged place of tension. Not sure if they even go to Hebron anymore. If they do, I expect it is with plenty of security.

Visiting Bethlehem is primarily to see the Church of the Holy Nativity. It won't take more than a couple of hours to do that.
Not sure why you would stay in Bethlehem. There is far more to see in Jerusalem.

Posted by
18 posts

I am not sure either -- we are doing this as a pilgrimage through a church. We are spending 3 nights in Bethelehem and doing the following:

Bethlehem – Basilica of the Nativity (Mass), The Milk Grotto, Shepherd’s Field, Caves
Masada, Dead Sea, Bethany (Mass), Lazarus’s Grave and Sanctuary
Jerusalem – Basilica of the Holy Sepulture (Mass), Jewish Quarter, Wailing Wall. Ain Karem – Basilica of John the Baptist, Church of the Visitation

Next we will spend 4 days in Nazareth with other day trips.

It is my first time going so I am not sure I understand the logic of where we are staying to be honest. My husband and I travel on our own without any tours. I am doing this because it has been my mom's long dream to visit the Holy Land.

I wanted some advise regarding whether we should spend the afternoon and night in Jerusalem upon our arrival or go straight to Bethlehm. Problem is the rest of the group won't arrive until midnight (we arrive early in the morning). I was hoping not to be in the hotel the whole time but explore a bit. That is why I am asking it makes more sense to stay in Jerusalem.

Julia

Posted by
15037 posts

Hi Julia. I think it's probably best to stay in Jerusalem overnight. That way you have a place to store your luggage when you arrive (even if the room isn't ready, they'll keep your bags for you) and you'll have a place to rest/nap/shower during the day if you start to crash. It's a short taxi ride between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, even though there may be a short delay at the security checkpoint. There is also regular bus service.. So you can easily get to Bethlehem the next morning to join your group.

Consider staying at the Notre Dame Hotel. It's across the street from the Old City and a short walk to the center of town with lots of shops and restaurants. And it has good views from the rooftop. You may want to visit the Israel Museum. You could also explore the Old City on your own, even though it's part of your tour. Wander through the market streets, explore the Armenian Quarter, visit the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer (and climb the tower for more views). You can also walk along the ramparts of the Old City. Or visit the Tower of David. Tons of choices. Just inside the Old City's Jaffa Gate is a Tourist Office where you can get maps and information.

From the airport, there are private taxis (expensive) and shared taxis (reasonable- NIS 64 per person, about $17) to Jerusalem. I don't think you can go directly from the airport to Bethlehem, you'd have to go to Jerusalem and then get a private taxi or a bus.

Posted by
15037 posts

What day of the week do you get here? That could change things.

Posted by
18 posts

Thank you, Chani! This is exactly what I was looking for. We arrive on a Monday.

Thanks!!!!

Posted by
15037 posts

Monday's not a problem. . . . Friday/Saturday might have been.