Welcome to Beit Sahour

Visiting the city of the Shepherds’ Field is a wonderful experience for tourists, visitors and Palestinians alike. To be in the place where the angels announced the birth of Jesus Christ to the shepherds, is an important part of any pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Beit Sahour is one of the main tourist attractions during the Easter and Christmas seasons. There are many historical and biblical sites in and around the city, which are frequently visited by pilgrims and tourists alike.

About Beit Sahour

Beit Sahour is a Palestinian city, situated 1.5 km to the east of Bethlehem. Leaving Bethlehem for Beit Sahour, you will arrive at the main entrance to the city, near the Ararat Hotel roundabout. Here the road splits into two branches: the road to the right leads to the Municipality of Beit Sahour, the Latin Convent, the Virgin Mary Well and the Old Centre, while the road to the left leads to Souq al-Sha’b and the Greek Catholic Church. This road then splits again, into two branches, which run parallel to each other. The road to the right leads to the Greek Orthodox Shepherds’ Field and Ush Ghurab Public Peace Park. The road to the left leads to the Catholic Shepherds’ Field, the YMCA and the Municipal Playground.

The most prominent monastic centres lie to the east of Beit Sahour, in the Judean wilderness. Beit Sahour is the best departure point from which to visit the monasteries of St. Theodosius, St. Sabas and St. Chariton.

Beit Sahour is located at an altitude of 663 m above sea level with a mean annual rainfall of 454 mm. The average annual temperature is 16.6°C and the average annual humidity is about 60%.

The name of this historic city (the house of vigilance) reportedly stems from the Canaanite words ‘Beit’ (meaning ‘place’), and ‘Sahour’ (meaning ‘night watch’). It reflects the city’s importance for shepherds, both as a grazing site during daytime and as a place of safety in the abundant caves available to the flocks at night. It has a pastoral setting and the olive groves dominate the horizon.

Beit Sahour has origins going back to the Bronze Age (3000 BC) when the Canaanites inhabited its numerous caves. Traces of inhabitants were found in the caves, going back to Roman times. The remnants of very ancient oil presses, found under the foundations of many houses, demonstrate beyond doubt that the place was inhabited at the time when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The city is full of historical and biblical sites of significance. Ruins from Roman, Byzantine, Islamic and Crusader times can be found throughout the area.

In the sixteenth century, houses rose up the mountain slope between the Shepherds’ Field and Nativity Hill. They later spread to the site of the present Old Centre near Bir-Essidah (the Virgin Mary Well).

Beit Sahour is now a middle class, thriving city with many industries. The locals have developed high-quality artisan craftsmanship, mainly mother-of-pearl, olive wood, religious and secular items. Embroidery is another special trademark. Other industries include textile, chemical and stone manufacturing.

The city is a model of cooperation and unity between Christians and Muslims. Throughout the troubled and turbulent history of our land, the people of Beit Sahour have always stood firm as a united community. Today, Beit Sahour is home to some 14,500 residents: 80% Christian and 20% Muslim. As a symbol of the increased unity between the region’s people, beside Arabic (the native language), English is now widely spoken. French, German and Spanish are also used.

The bi-millennium celebrations generated a great deal of interest in the restoration of the cultural heritage in Beit Sahour. The preservation and expansion of the Old Centre would contribute enormously to the development of the tourism sector. At present, tourists coming to Beit Sahour often limit their visit to the Shepherds’ Field and the souvenir shops around it. The Old City Centre is rarely visited. Conservation, restoration and investment in the city will mean that its rich history can be more fully explored by visitors and residents alike, whilst also providing the best possible services, including a wide variety of restaurants, cafes and hotels. Tourism, and its related enterprises, plays a crucial role in the city’s economy.

Beit Sahour was among the first cities in Palestine to have an organized local government. The first elections for the city council took place in 1925.

In 1952, the Council was elevated to a Municipality. The present Municipal Council consists of 13 members, including two women. The Municipality has 37 workers (distributed between maintenance and cleaning services) and 26 employees across the five major departments:

– Administration
– Accounting
– Engineering and Project Development
– Health and Environment
– Public Relations

The present Council set, as an ultimate goal, to create an effective administrative structure with qualified staff to provide appropriate, quality guidance and support for short-term and long-term planning for both public and private development initiatives.

The Municipal Council seeks to accomplish a comprehensive master plan for Beit Sahour, with a holistic vision, fulfilling the needs and ambitions of the city’s residents. It places strong emphasis on the active involvement of the community in the implementation of the plan. The Council also seeks to set a rationale for the growth of the city, the use of the local land and water, and to optimize the Council’s income from the

The Beit Sahour Municipality is in the process of re-evaluating and updating its current Strategic Development and Investment Plan (SDIP), in order to provide the best possible services for residents and visitors – and to actively pursue consistent development with the cooperation of civil society through the proper investment of financial, human and tourism resources. This plan has four main categories for development and investment:

– Infrastructure
– Services Enhancement
– Environmental Conservation
– Income Generation.
Beit Sahour’s Municipality is committed to providing its local community with a number of services aiming to preserve, develop and upgrade these sectors of the city and support local organizations.

The overall target of the plan is to develop the city and its economy, in collaboration with Beit Sahour’s citizens and local organizations. In addition, it aims to empower women in the local community, inspire and support the youth sector, as well as supporting projects that target people with special needs. The Municipality has been focusing greatly on services that are of a high priority for the residents of Beit Sahour. These services currently include infrastructure services, such as water and electricity; solid waste collection; road construction and restoration; street cleaning and social development services; public markets; sewage network services; organization of the construction and licensing process and establishing international relations and partnerships for the benefit of the city.

Beit Sahour has developed ties of cooperation and friendly relations with institutions and cities worldwide. The rich history of the city, its citizens’ openness to other cultures and their hospitality to visitors, make it an ideal international partner. Solidarity and support from the international community have been tremendous, providing assistance for a variety of projects, which have provided many job opportunities in the community. Our twin cities have also helped us to promote and sell handicrafts from Beit Sahour in their communities, and given us opportunities to discuss our situation with their residents and leaders.

Beit Sahour is a member of the Permanent Conference of Historic Towns of the Mediterranean, a group working to preserve and enrich all its member towns and cities. The following communities are twinned with, or have established close ties with, Beit Sahour:

City/Region Name Country Date of Relationship
Agliana, Tuscany Italy 2009
Genoa, Liguria Italy 2009
Pelago, Tuscany Italy 2009
Rufina, Tuscany Italy 2009
Anghiari, Tuscany Italy 2009
Mira, Venice Italy 2008
Rimini, Emilia-Romagna Italy 2003
Quatrro-Castella, Emilia-Romagna Italy 2005
Castelsardo, Sardinia Italy 2006
Provincia di Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna Italy 2003
Laconi, Sardinia Italy 2001
Fiorenzoula D’Arda, Emilia-Romagna Italy 1990
Comacchio, Ferrara Italy 2015
Romans France 1995
Vaulx-en-Velin France 2006
Givors&Grigny France 2009
Clichy-la-Garenne France 2009
Aulnoye-Aymeries France 1996
St. Priest France 1996
Giere France 1996
Vienne France 1996
Grenoble France 1996
Korydallos Greece 2000
Agia Greece 2007
Santiago Chile 2001
Concon Chile 2001
San Fernando Chile 2009
Xanten Germany 2011
Villanueva de la Cañada Spain 2014
Utena Lithuania 2015
Alba Iulia Romania 2015
Opsterland Holland 2000
Al Manama Bahrain 1990
Doha Qatar 2009
Fuheis Jordan 2008

Working plans for giving the city a ‘face-lift’ began after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, in 1994. The Beit Sahour Municipality continues to work on a number of these plans, developing projects and initiatives in cooperation with the city’s civil society organizations and its residents. These projects remain vital to the preservation, improvement and development of the city and include:

– Renovating the public water network
– Improving roads and pavements and establishing car parking
– Establishing a typical, licensed slaughterhouse
– Developing an industrial zone for handicrafts (including olive wood and mother-of-pearl)
– Improving separation of organic household solid waste (treating it at the source, and reusing)
– Planting of trees along streets, in public places, and on barren land
– Organizing continuous community-awareness campaigns
– Restoring archaeological and historical buildings and establishing a tourist centre
– Restoring and regenerating the old market place
– Supporting crafts and heritage industries
– Establishing a public library and a theatre
– Developing the sanitation network in the city
– Repairing and improving the internal and linking roads in the city
– Improving the quality of the lighting services
– Developing and activating laws of control on the health and environment sectors
– Improving and developing the tourism sector
– Improving and transforming the teaching/learning environments in schools
– Improving and increasing the level of services provided to people with disabilities.

The working population of the city is currently employed across six main areas:

in industries which include textile, chemical and stone manufacturing 34
in the tourism and trade sector 27
in government and private employees sector 17
in service industries 11
in agriculture 6
in the Israeli labor market sector. 5