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Town in the Judean hills south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem was the setting of the Book of Ruth, the home of David, and, according to New Testament tradition the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The architectural beauty of the Basilica, the Church of the Nativity, built in the 4th century, is still preserved. As the most important Christian shrine, Bethlehem is visited by many thousands of pilgrims, especially at Christmas time. Its population of about 22,000 consists mainly of Christian Arabs, in whose dress and features the influence of the Crusaders has been preserved. The holiest Jewish site in Bethlehem is the Tomb of Rachel. Under the Oslo Agreement, the town was put under Palestinian Authority rule.

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