Old Bethlehem museum, as the name suggests, is a box of wonders that has sincerely preserved costumes, household objects, and other necessities from the 19th century Bethlehem. The museum itself has been developed in a refurbished 19th-century Palestinian building and fundamentally comprises of three rooms that have been reincarnated in the form of traditional Bethlehem family house and showcases elements that date back to at least 200 years. The museum is situated at the heart of Manger Square and thereby, lies extremely close to the Church of the Nativity. The museum is open for tourists on all days of the week from except Sunday and is divided into two shifts; the first one is from 8 am to 2 pm and the next one is from 5 pm to 8 pm.
The best part about the museum lies in its story of inception; it was initially fashioned by the Arab Union of Women who came together with precious pieces of jewelry, lamps, and photographs of families from the preceding area and wanted to share it with the common public as a marker of Bethlehem’s rich culture and traditions. There were namely two fundamental objects that led to the establishment of the museum- firstly, it wanted to create better job opportunities for the women in Palestine and secondly, it was meant to be a safe shelter for the Palestinian refugees who sought an escape from their villages.
Later in 1984, the realms of the museum were stretched further to encumber an old house that was on its way of restoration and this particular building is acknowledged as one of the old buildings in Bethlehem. The upper room of the museum was mostly dedicated to pictures collected by a well-known ethnographer Julia Dabdoub and the photos are like a pictorial story that relates out the chronicles of the people in Bethlehem and their rituals lived there between the periods of 1900 to 1930.
One of the most intriguing features of the museum is that all its constituents are exhibited without any definite order which to some might some odd, but in reality, this property further enhances its appeal. The photographs contain a mixture of colored and black and white portraits, therefore, implying that even if the waves of modernity have hit the shores of Bethlehem, it still earnestly holds on to everything that belongs to the antique. Other than the pictures, the museum has a brilliant collection of household items from the past that would furnish you with transparent insight into the ways of life of the natives and qualify as a historical reference for the same.
The museum is maintained and run by a non-profitable women’s union, and if you are willing to carry back something as a souvenir from here, the women in-charge would be happy to help you with their collection of local textile and embroidery that are created there itself. All these qualities of the Old Bethlehem Museum when pooled in together make the place a must-visit on a tourist’s list; whether you visit it to rediscover the past life of Bethlehem or get acquainted with the true nature of the city, it is all worthy!