Bethlehem is a religious city that is home to many significant historical landmarks, most notably the Church of the Nativity, Mar Saba Monastery, and the Shepherds' Field. But it also suffers from political conflict and hardships, including the separation wall that surrounds it, refugee camps, and Israeli checkpoints.
This tour is run in conjunction with our partner ActionAid, an international NGO. ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to find sustainable solutions to end poverty and injustice around the world. The organisation takes sides with the poorest and most marginalised people, and supports them to claim power, and to take action to overcome the underlying causes of poverty.
ActionAid believes that an end to the poverty and oppression of the Palestinian people will be achieved through sustained collective and individual action, supported by people worldwide.
Your guide will be Baha Helo, an experienced activist in Bethlehem and its environs. His background is political science, and he is passionate about advocating for an end to the unjust situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. He has been guiding tourists and guests in the area for many years, and is considered an expert in the social and political history of the city.
Your Bethlehem tour will start at Singer Café, where you’ll receive from your local guide a general introduction to Palestine and the local political realities, with maps and visuals as aids.
We’ll then drive down to Beit Sahour, the town where the bible says the shepherds saw the star over Bethlehem when Christ was born. But in addition to its biblical importance, for years Beit Sahour was the scene of many political struggles between locals and the Israeli occupation over land, water, and the building of the Israeli separation wall — a controversial barrier judged to be illegal by the International Court of Justice and the international community. If you haven’t yet seen it, check out The Wanted 18, an animated documentary about Palestine’s boycott of Israeli taxation — and the army’s pursuit of 18 dairy cows.
After seeing the separation wall from afar, we’ll drive up to get a closer look at how it zigzags through the neighbourhoods of the little town of Bethlehem. We’ll learn how the wall has impacted the lives of Palestinians restricting their movement, separating families, and devastating the lives of thousands of people. The wall has become a canvas for those wishing to express their opposition to it, through artistic skill. One such artist was Banksy, an international graffiti artist and political activist. We’ll visit the Banksy shop, where you will see artworks that describe the Palestinian cause, and if you wish, you can take a spray can and express your own views on the wall opposite the shop just before we take a lunch break and enjoy a delicious falafel sandwich.
There are three refugee camps in the Bethlehem area housing Palestinians who were forced from their homes in 1948. You’ll get to visit the Aida Refugee camp, where you will be hosted by a family that has lived in this camp all their lives — you’ll learn about their lifestyle and listen to their displacement story. While listening to their stories, we’ll sip on some tea with mint and traditional Palestinian sweets.
Driving up from the refugee camp, our car will drop you off at the main entrance of the busy market, where you will continue on foot with your local guide. You will have the chance to explore the market and interact with the people and shop owners, passing through all kinds of shops selling everything from produce to souvenirs, and you’ll get a sense for the history of this place. We’ll eventually reach Manger Square, the location of the Church of the Nativity, where our tour will end. If you’d like to explore more, you’ll have the choice to visit the church on your own, or you can hire a local guide sitting at the entrance of the church.
Please note that if you require transportation from Jerusalem to Beit Sahour, we also offer the option for pick-up in Jerusalem, for an additional fee. Please book our In Focus: Bethlehem Along the Wall (departing from Jerusalem) option instead. However, please note that these tours do not include your return fare to Jerusalem. Your guide will help you to arrange your return to Jerusalem, but due to varying group sizes, we cannot offer a flat rate for return.
Inclusions: Local English-speaking guide, transportation during the tour, food samples.
Exclusions: Transportation to and from Beit Sahour/Bethlehem, additional food and drink, souvenirs, tips/gratuities for your guide.
Dress standard: Bethlehem city is not a conservative community, but as we will visit a refugee camp during the tour, we recommend that you be modestly dressed.
Your Trip: For your Urban Adventure you will be in a small group of a maximum of 12 people.
Confirmation of booking: If you have your voucher, your booking is confirmed. We'll see you at the start point. Get in touch if you have any concerns or require more information via the email address or phone number (business hours only) on your voucher.
Additional Information: Note that this tour will include passing along roads that are under direct Israeli army control, and near illegal Israeli settlements. As such, you must have your official documents (passport, etc.) on you during the trip.
Closure of sites: If the main tour locations are not accessible, we will inform you in advance and offer an alternative tour option.
Child Policy: This is a child-friendly tour. Children between the ages of 6 and 11 inclusively are permitted on this tour at the rate listed above. Please select ‘child’ above when booking. Children under the age of 6 are permitted to join this tour free of charge. Please inform us at the time of booking if you’ll be bringing a child under the age of 6. You can do so in the special request box on the checkout page.