Just across the Israel-Palestine border stands Bethlehem, a leading Palestinian city. The Nativity Square or Manger Square is a city square that marks the center of Bethlehem.
Not Just a Regular City Square!
The name of this square comes from the “manger” where according to the Christian belief; Mother Mary gave birth to the Messiah. The Manger Square is important because it leads to many tourist attractions and important buildings of the city, like- the Church of the Nativity, Mosque of Omar and Bethlehem Peace Centre. The Bethlehem Municipality, which was established in 1872, is located on the right side of the Mosque of Omar. What used to be a prison during the British occupation and Israeli times, is now the Bethlehem Peace Centre. Between the 14th and early 20th centuries, Manger Square used to be a market place. After the dismissal of the Ottoman Empire, the market place was shifted to the middle of the Old City. The square was reconstructed from 1998 to 2000 to reduce traffic jam in the city. Being a significant social and cultural spot, it is a gathering place for the locals. To arrange any event, concert or exhibition, this place is the first choice in the city. The Christians also love to celebrate Christmas and Easter here.
The Best of Both Worlds
Can a place be more blessed, that echoes the beautiful recitations of both the Quran and the Bible? Can a place be more sacred, where both the Christian and Muslim God shower blessings? The Manger Square gives a rare cosmopolitan vibe as it proudly comprehends the holy worship places of two great religions, Islam and Christianity.
While being loved among the Christians as the place where Jesus was born, it is now predominantly a Muslim town. On the east side of the Square, there is the “Church of the Nativity” and the west side is dominated by the “Mosque of Omar”. Church of the Nativity, the oldest church in the world of Christianity, has been built between 333 and 339 right on the site where Jesus was born. This church is more significant because of its “Grotto of the Nativity”, where the actual spot of Jesus’ birth is marked by a fourteen-pointed star.
During the reign of Caliph Omar in 638, the Muslims were also drawn to this holy site since they consider Jesus Christ as an important prophet of Islam. Caliph Omar not only let his Christian subjects practice their religion without any hindrance but also prayed inside the southern part of the church. Though it is unknown when the Mosque of Omar was first built, the existing one was established in 1860 and got a renovation in 1954. Over a thousand years the Mosque of Omar has been standing across the Manger Square facing the Church of the Nativity.
Manger Square is the perfect example of peace and harmony between two different religions. The place not only carries history but also blessings.