Bethlehem (; Arabic: بيت لحم Bayt Lahm [beːt.laħm], " House of Meat "; Hebrew: בֵּית לֶחֶם Bet Lehem, [ bet ˈleχem], " House of Bread "; Ancient Greek: Βηθλεέμ Greek pronunciation: [bɛːtʰle.ém]; Latin : Bethleem; initially named after Canaanite fertility god Lehem) is a Palestinian city located in the central West Bank , Palestine, about 10 km (6.2 miles) south of Jerusalem. Its population is approximately 25,000 people . It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate. The economy is primarily tourist-driven.
The earliest known mention of the city was in the Amarna correspondence of 1350–1330 BCE during its habitation by the Canaanites. The Hebrew Bible , which says that the city of Bethlehem was built up as a fortified city by Rehoboam, identifies it as the city David was from and where he was crowned as the king of Israel . The New Testament identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus . Bethlehem was destroyed by the Emperor Hadrian during the second -century Bar Kokhba revolt ; its rebuilding was promoted by Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who commissioned the building of its great Church of the Nativity in 327 CE. The church was badly damaged by the Samaritans, who sacked it during a revolt in 529, but was rebuilt a century later by Emperor Justinian I.
Bethlehem became part of Jund Filastin following the Muslim conquest in 637. Muslim rule continued in Bethlehem until its conquest in 1099 by a crusading army , who replaced the town 's Greek Orthodox clergy with a Latin one. In the mid-13th century, the Mamluks demolished the city 's walls, which were subsequently rebuilt under the Ottomans in the early 16th century .