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The Old City of Beit Sahour


The city of Beit Sahour and its Old Core are just a stone-throw away from Bethlehem. The name Beit Sahour is a subject of controversy but the most accepted interpretation is related to the shepherds who stay up till dawn, sahar in Arabic, to watch over their flock. This interpretation is compatible with the tradition that considers the valley where the city is nestled, as the Shepherds’ field and underlines the links of the town with Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. The city is adamant about maintaining its traditions, but has been at the vanguard of creative resistance movements against the Israeli Occupation. Beit Sahour has also pioneered the concept of alternative tourism in order to provide “a unique insight into the complex historical, cultural, social, political and religious aspects of the Holy Land” (Alternative Tourism Group). It houses the Alternative Tourism Group and the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People, and both reflect its openness to others and to new processes. Walking in the old quarters, one can imbibe the energy that makes this city tick. Some of the renovated old buildings have been converted to guesthouses; the handicrafts village reflect the age-old tradition of woodcarving and mother of pearl craftsmanship, which put the city in competition with its sister city Bethlehem; but it is mostly through the preservation of its traditional marriage customs that Beit Sahour prides itself.

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