Arab-Muslim period

With the Arab-Muslim occupation by Caliph Omar in 638, Bethlehem also became subject to this new power. A climate of tolerance and peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians was guaranteed by the symbolic gesture of the Caliph who, following the occupation of the town, entered to pray alongside the south apse of the church.

From that moment onwards, the church became a place of prayer for both Christians and Muslims. At the beginning, this peaceful coexistence and tolerance between the two religions was respected, but with the coming of different caliphates the situation for the Christians in Bethlehem deteriorated markedly, culminating in the persecutions in 1009 on the part of the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim who ordered the destruction of the Holy Land sanctuaries; the Nativity in Bethlehem was miraculously spared, probably due to its importance for the Islamic religion, as it was the place of birth for the prophet known by the Muslims as Issa, and also due to the fact that a small mosque was contained within the basilica.

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