Bethlehem is one of the top pilgrimage and tourism sites in the Holy Land. It's chief attraction is, of course, the Church of the Nativity, which was constructed over the Grotto of the Nativity, where Jesus is believed to have been born. However, the Church of the Nativity is far from the only pilgrimage and tourism site Bethlehem has to offer. Only a few streets south of the Church of Nativity is the Milk Grotto, a soft chalk cave where, as local tradition has it, Mary and Joseph rested while fleeing from Herod's soldiers. As legend has it, while Mary nursed Jesus a drop of milk fell to the floor of the cave, turning it white. Today, local women who are new mothers or who are attempting to conceive mix the chalk of the cave with their food and pray to Mary for a successful pregnancy and bountiful milk. Shepard's field in Beit Sahur, to the East of Bethlehem proper, is a series of caves where the birth of Jesus was announced to the local shepherds. And for those seeking more contemporary attractions, the separation barrier constructed by Israel following the Second Intifada borders Bethlehem on the North. Local artists and protestors have covered the kilometers long barrier with political graffiti protesting the occupation and describing everyday life in Bethlehem. Of course, the sometimes tense security situation between Israel and the Palestinians makes entry into Bethlehem somewhat challenging for the casual tourist. It is possible to reach Bethlehem from the East Jerusalem bus station on route 21. There is, however, no regular service or arrival timetable for arrival as buses can, and often are, held up in Israeli checkpoints. By the same measure, one can order a Palestinian Taxi in East Jerusalem, but it too will be held up by queues at checkpoints. While driving your car into Bethlehem is possible, and will cut down on checkpoint waiting time, Israeli car rental companies do not offer insurance coverage for travel in the West Bank.
The best and safest way to reach Bethlehem is through an organized tour such as those of Fun Time Tour and Travel. In addition to getting you in and out of Bethlehem with no complications, an organized tour is the best way to get to all of the aforementioned sites and discover how their story intertwines with that of contemporary Bethlehem.