Featured artist: Shannon Crees

Bethlehem

Featured artist: Shannon Crees
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Out and about

Bethlehem

Relationship with Marrickville

Marrickville and Bethlehem became sister cities in 2007.

Bethlehem was chosen as one of Marrickville's sister cities because it is a multicultural city, like Marrickville, and residents from Palestine have made a valuable contribution to the local Marrickville area. Bethlehem has great cultural significance to a broad range of people from many different ethnic backgrounds.

Geography and climate

Bethlehem is located in the central West Bank of Palestine. It lies 73 kilometres northeast of Gaza and the Mediterranean Sea; 75 kilometres west of Amman, Jordan; 59 kilometres southeast of Tel Aviv, Israel; and 10 kilometres south of Jerusalem.

Bethlehem has a temperate climate for most of the year, but experiences cold winters from mid-December to mid-March.

Local life and traditions

  • 40,000 people live in the Municipality of Bethlehem and 5,000 in the old centre of the town, which consists of eight quarters.
     
  • Bethlehem is revered by the followers of three religions: by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus Christ; by Jews as it contains the shrine of Rachel; and by Muslims as it is the place where the prophet Muhammad prayed on his way to Jerusalem.
     
  • Modern Bethelehem has a Muslim majority but is also home to a large Christian community.
     
  • Bethlehem has many churches, religious institutions, schools and hospitals servicing the community.
     
  • The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, built in 326 AD, is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. The structure is build over the cave that Christians believe is the birthplace of Christ, and is considered sacred by followers of both Christianity and Islam.
     
  • Bethlehem has four museums, more than 30 hotels and 300 handicraft workshops. Popular handicrafts include olive wood carvings and mother-of-pearl ornaments.

Festivals

  • Al-Khadr (The Feast of St George) is held every year from 5-6 May. During the celebrations, Greek Orthodox Christians from the city march to baptise newborns around the Monastery of St George and sacrifice a sheep.
     
  • For Mar Elias (The Feast of St Elijah), locals march towards the Monastery of St Elijah to the north of Bethlehem and feast to commemorate St Elijah, who is a popular figure in Palestine.
     
  • Official Palestinian holidays include International Women's Day on 8 March, Land Day on 30 March, Labor Day on 1 May, Independence Day on 15 November and Christmas Day on December 25.
     
  • Local Muslims mark Muslim holidays including Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr and al-Mawlid.

Food and wine

Bethlehem is an agricultural market, with products including citrus and other fruits, olives and cereals. Sheep and goats are the principal livestock.

Bethlehem is home to a wine producing company, Cremisan Wine, which produces around 700,000 litres of wine per year. The grapes are harvested from the al-Khader area and the wine is produced by monks in the monastery of Cremisan. Cremisan Wine was founded in 1885 and exports 'Badd Giacaman Museum dates back to the 18th century and is dedicated to the history and process of olive oil production.

Mutabbal, or eggplant salad (serves 4)

A favourite dish in Palestine.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp of tehina (sesame sauce)
  • 4 tbsp of lemon juice
  • ½ green chilli pepper, crushed
  • Salt and olive oil to taste

1. Halve the eggplants and place them under the grill for 30 minutes.
2. While the eggplant is cooking, mix the tehina with the lemon juice until it forms a paste.
3. Once the eggplant has finished cooking, remove its insides from the skin with a spoon.
4. Mix the eggplant with the tehina paste, garlic and chilli peppers.
5. Add salt and olive oil to taste.

Tehina (sesame sauce)

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

1. Whisk the tahini paste with the water.
2. Add the salt, lemon juice and garlic.

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