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Even from a distance, it's easy to identify the minarets and steeples that symbolically vie for control of the skyline of Bethlehem, home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Although a few decades ago most residents were Christians, today the great majority of greater Bethlehem's 30,000 residents are Muslim, as elsewhere in the West Bank.

For Christians the world over, the city is synonymous with the birth of Jesus and the many shrines that celebrate that event. Bethlehem is also the site of the Tomb of Rachel, Jacob's wife, who died in childbirth here. Rachel's Tomb today lies in Israeli-controlled territory, immediately to the north of the wall that divides the area.

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Fodor's Essential Israel: with the West Bank and Petra

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