Bethlehem in Judea
Bethlehem In Judea Concerning this place, so memorable from the birth of our Lord, we gather a few additional particulars from one of the most recent and authoritative works on Palestine (Conder, Tent-work, i, 282 sq.). SEE NATIVITY, CHURCH OF THE.
"Bethlehem is a long town of solidly built stone houses, crowning the summit of two knolls, connected by a lower saddle, on a white chalk ridge with steep declivities to the north and south. The monastery and basilica are at the east end of the town, overlooking the northern valley. The population, of 5000 souls, is almost entirely Christian, and the inhabitants are remarkable for their enterprise and energy in trade. The Bethlehem women are famous for their beauty, for their delicate complexion and aquiline features. They are distinguished by their head-dress, a tall felt hat, in shape a truncated cone, over which a white veil is arranged, and from which heavy strings of coins are suspended. Their dresses are also remarkable from the square patches of red and yellow, which are introduced into the blue or striped fabric of which they are composed. SEE ATTIRE.
"Bethlehem is supplied with water by cisterns, and from the great aqueduct (from Solomon's Pools) which passes through the hill. The famous well for the waters of which David thirsted (2Sa 23:14-17) is supposed to be represented by an ancient and extensive cistern, with many mouths, on the north-east. It is not impossible that this may be the 'pit,' as Josephus calls it (Ant. 7:12, 4), which was beside the city.
"East of Bethlehem is a narrow plain or open valley, bare and treeless, with white stony slopes and a few crumbling ruins. One of these ruins is a large building called Si el-Ghanem ('the sheepfold'), apparently an ancient monastery; a second site is called 'the Church of the Flocks,' a subterranean Greek chapel, with mediaeval ruins above, first mentioned in crusading chronicles. It is here that Migdal-Eder, 'the tower of the flock,' is supposed by Jerome to have stood, where, according to the Jews, Messiah was first to appear; and it is on this plain, according to tradition, that the angelic messenger appeared to the shepherds, and that the Gloria in Excelsis was first sung."