Manger Square (Arabic: ميدان المهد) is a city square in the center of Bethlehem in Palestine. It takes its name from the manger where Jesus is said to have been born which, according to Christian tradition, took place at the Nativity Church. A particular building set in Manger Square is the Mosque of Omar, the city's only mosque, and the Palestinian Peace Center. The streets that lead to the square are related to the Christian faith, such as Star Street and Nativity Street.
In 1998-1999, the square was renovated to relieve the traffic congestion and currently is pedestrian only. It is mainly a meeting place for locals and for the town's many pilgrims. There are rows of celtis australis that provide shade to its people, with benches and fountains made of white yellowish Naqab marble below.
On 21 April 2013, Manger Square was the starting and finishing line of Palestine Marathon.
Manger Square is a focal point for all of the Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, with a giant Christmas tree crowning the square. It is the traditional spot where locals and pilgrims sing Christmas carols before the midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Armenian Apostolic Church follow the Julian Calendar liturgically, whereas the Roman Catholic Church follows the modern Gregorian Calendar. Thus Christmas Eve services for the Eastern and Western confessions are held on different days. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Nativity on 25 December; the Orthodox celebrations are on 7 January.
Church of the Nativity siege
In May 2002, during an Israel Defense Forces raid on the square a part of Operation Defensive Shield, a number of locals (some of whom were armed) and peace activists took refuge in the Church of the Nativity. It became the site of a five-week stand-off. The number of people inside was estimated between 120 and 240. It was alleged by Palestinians that several Palestinians inside the church compound were shot dead by Israeli snipers during the siege. The siege ended with an agreement for 13 militants to be sent via Cyprus to various European counties and another 26 to be sent to Gaza. The rest were set free. The IDF stated that 40 explosive devices were found and removed from the compound after the standoff was concluded.
- arjan (2002-08-22). "Israeli distortions during the siege on the Church of the Nativity". Retrieved 2016-06-27.
- Gunmen exit Church of Nativity CBC, 10 May 2002