We believe that in order to truly act upon our call as global outreach volunteers and mission educators, we must be willing to go anywhere. Bethlehem is an area that has impressed on our hearts a need for the children. These children from so many different backgrounds and so much change, need stability and growth. They need mentors to pour into them and activities to continue to grow them physically, mentally, and spiritually.
We hope that our work at Bethlehem Academy will provide a place of mutual respect and understanding. We hope to provide not only excellent education, but also a place of love and security.
Like many cities in Israel and Palestine, Bethlehem is biblically important to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
For Jews, Bethlehem (Bet Lechem) is the burial place of the matriarch Rachel and the birthplace of King David. Additionally, Samuel anointed David as king of Israel in Bethlehem (I Sam. 16:1-13) and David’s ancestors – Ruth and Boaz – were married in Bethlehem.
For Christians, Bethlehem is recognized in the gospels of Matthew and Luke as the birthplace of Jesus and is one of the religions holies sites around the world. The town is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, though many Christians have fled the city.
Bethlehem was first settled by Canaanite tribes who name the city Beit Lahama. They built a temple to the god Lahama on the present mount of the Nativity. Around 1200 BCE, the Philistines had a garrison stationed in Bethlehem because of its strategic location. Following the Israelites rule, the Greeks occupied the region unitl the arrival of the Romans in 160 BCE.
The city, located just 5 miles south of Jerusalem, was turned over to the Palestinian Authority as a result of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement. Bethlehem has a population of roughly 30,000 people, a number which has been in steep decline over the past decade as the majority of Christians in the city have emigrated out of the Palestinian territory.