The idea of the Bethlehem Museum was first born in the mind of the late Julia Dabdoub, who served as the president of the Arab Women’s Union – Bethlehem (AWU). Her original idea was to create a living museum which would serve as a permanent exhibition of folk and local industries in Palestine for all tourists to enjoy.
On October 1977, a plot of land near Rachel’s Tomb on Jerusalem-Hebron Street, was purchased. Through donations from different institutions and individuals, the women were able to begin the construction for the museum, however, they were unable to complete it.
In 2012, with Mrs. Virginia Canawati serving as president of the AWU, the Arab Women’s Union and the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) entered into a long term strategic partnership agreement in order to complete the project. In the agreement with AWU, HCEF agreed to manage the operations, programming, and curation of the museum, all the while committing itself to preserving the original vision of Julia Dabdoub. The Bethlehem Museum is the result of the combined efforts of the women of the AWU and all those who have worked for and supported the project over the past decades.
The partnership between HCEF and the AWU, which was made under the umbrella of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiques, represented by her Excellency Minister Rula Mai’ah, is the result of a great trust in the mission of both organizations and in the ministry to revive this essential site. This museum is considered a touristic and archaeological landmark that reflects the Palestinian identity of Bethlehem, and its humanitarian, spiritual, historical, and cultural legacy.