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Notes on the Geography of The West Bank: Bethlehem 4: Millennium Projects

With the year 2000 approaching, the Palestinian authorities began a fairly frantic effort to spruce up what was a very tired city. Little was done to change the actual conditions of life in Bethlehem, but much was done to make the city appear attractive to tourists.

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The West Bank: Bethlehem 4: Millennium Projects picture 1

The streets of central Bethlehem had been paved with asphalt, but in the runup to the Bethlehem 2000 celebrations Europeans funded replacing the asphalt with stone, at least in a few streets. Late in 1998, when this picture was taken, the work was underway, and Bethlehemites complained about the difficulty of driving with so many streets closed for repair. To a pedestrian, the same closure was a whiff of the past, when there were no sounds of mechanized transport.

The West Bank: Bethlehem 4: Millennium Projects picture 2

A completed stone pavement a hundred yards west of the Church of the Nativity. The hope was that owners would undertake at their own expense the renewal of what's behind the facades. So long as an old rent-control law caps the very low rents they can charge, the prospects are remote.

The West Bank: Bethlehem 4: Millennium Projects picture 3

Manger Square, freshly paved with limestone flags laid in a quasi-star pattern. The Church of the Nativity is in the background.

The West Bank: Bethlehem 4: Millennium Projects picture 4

Asphalt remained on the steep ridge-crossing road. The Church of the Nativity is just off to the upper left. The woman is passing the "ein," or village spring. Actually, it's not a spring at all, merely a spot where the aqueduct that once brought water from Solomon's Pools to Jerusalem entered a tunnel under the ridge. Village women came here for water until the Jordanians introduced a piped supply. At the time the picture was taken, the "ein" was in a state of disrepair, shown close-up in the next picture.

The West Bank: Bethlehem 4: Millennium Projects picture 5

Before the "Bethlehem 2000" upgrade.

The West Bank: Bethlehem 4: Millennium Projects picture 6

By 1999 the "ein" had been cleaned up. Unfortunately, the conduit from Solomon's Pools had not been restored, so the "ein" remained dry.

The West Bank: Bethlehem 4: Millennium Projects picture 7

A sign identifies the foreign donors who paid for the restoration work. The Church of the Nativity lies up the hill to the left, and the original conduit carried water in a tunnel underneath the square in front of the church. Several hundred yards to the left, the conduit once again emerges at the surface and can be traced most of the way to Jerusalem.

The West Bank: Bethlehem 4: Millennium Projects picture 8

The British market was torn down to make way for a "Bethlehem 2000" market. The design bears little if any resemblance to anything ever seen in Bethlehem.

The West Bank: Bethlehem 4: Millennium Projects picture 9

Another picture of the new market under construction. The buildings are concrete, with a thin stone veneer, typical of modern construction methods in Jerusalem as well as the West Bank. In the foreground, a few determined merchants attempt to sell vegetables, including industrial-strength cauliflowers.


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