One of the best day trips from Jerusalem is to visit the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank Territory. Both cities can be easily visited in one full day. We visited both Palestinian cities from Jerusalem by taking the local buses and in this blog, I will explain everything that you should know to have a great day trip.
Bethlehem is only 10km away from Jerusalem and ideally should be visited first. To get to Bethlem, you can take the local bus just outside of the old city in front of Damascus gate. The bus number 231 goes to Bethlehem and costs only 4-5 shekels. The usually takes approx. 30 minutes depending on the traffic.
The main tourist attraction in Bethlehem is the Church of Nativity and the main Bazar in the town centre. The bus stop is on the main road and from there the church and the bazaar is less than 15 minutes of walk. There are a number of taxi drivers waiting for the tourists and if you are not interested in taking a taxi you should avoid talking to them or asking for any help. Some of the taxi drivers will insist on taking the cab.
The path to church leads through the main bazaar. It is a very interesting bazaar and the people are very friendly. If you are interested in buying some gifts to take back home then consider buying it here. Prices in Bethlehem are much less than Jerusalem. If you are feeling thirsty try the fresh Pomegranate juice from the vendors selling in the bazaar which is very tasty.
The Church of Nativity is one of the most visited churches in the world and probably the biggest tourist attraction of Palestine. The grotto it contains holds a prominent religious significance to Christians of various denominations as the birthplace of Jesus. If you want to see the grotto then you should come as early as possible or otherwise, you will have to wait patiently for hours.
After visiting the church take the same path to the main road from where you started walking.
The yellow coloured minibuses to Hebron leaves from the same main road. The minibuses leave as soon as there are enough passengers and usually, it doesn't take long. We had to wait only 10minutes and it costs 9 shekels to Hebron. On the way, you will pass some Arab villages and Jews settlements. There are a number of police checkpoints but no one stopped us for any security controls. The mini-bus takes approx. 40 minutes and will drop you in the old city. Hebron is the biggest Palestinian city in the West Bank area.
The main tourist attraction in Hebron is a series of caves in the old town also known as Cave of Patriarchs or Toms of Patriarchs. According to Abrahamic religions, Prophet Abraham bought the caves and the surrounding fields to build a burial site. During the Herodian era, there was a large rectangular enclosure over the cave. During the Byzantine Christians area, they built a Basilica which later took over by the crusaders until Saladin taken back and built a Mosque. Israel took control of the site in 1967, dividing the structure into a synagogue and a mosque. It is called the Ibrahimi Mosque which is the fourth Holy Mosque in Islam.
To enter the compound you will have have to pass through police security checkpoints on the entrance of both Synagogue and Mosque. Non-Muslims are allowed to enter the mosque (Dress appropriately and cover your head)
The surrounding neighbourhood is a very sensitive area due to Jewish settlements and numerous police checkpoints. It was a very eye-opening experience to walk around and see it with own eyes. Avoid taking pictures of the Jewish settlers home. One of the settlers was very hostile towards us while were taking pictures.
To come back to Jerusalem take the bus from the Jewish area which passes through numerous Jewish settlements. Foreigners are allowed to take this bus. The bus takes more than an hour due to numerous stops along the way and the last stop is at the Jerusalem main bus station in front of Jerusalem Yitzhak Navon train station.