What Exactly Is New Bethlehem?
In The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, Commander Lawrence has mentioned New Bethlehem a few times. So far, the series has been rather vague about what this idea of Lawrence’s entails. When he discussed it with Warren Putnam, however, Putnam wasn’t too keen on the idea. Here’s what some fans think New Bethlehem will include and what we have learned from the series so far.
[SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers ahead for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5.]
Commander Lawrence introduced the idea of New Bethlehem in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 5
Commander Lawrence is an important man in Gilead. He is one of the founders of Gilead, who instituted the horrific Colonies where women are sent to clean up toxic waste until they die. In The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, he suggests a new plan for Gilead, which he calls “New Bethlehem.”
Warren Putnam scoffs at the idea, saying that Lawrence wants to welcome traitors, criminals, and terrorists back into Gilead. Lawrence, however, points out that Gilead is in danger if they keep the walls up and borders closed. Still, Putnam isn’t convinced and is hesitant about the outside world poking around in Gilead’s affairs.
Lawrence hopes to bring refugees back into Gilead
So what exactly is New Bethlehem? A fan on Reddit looked into the Biblical reference to come up with a pretty solid theory. “The actual city of Bethlehem was destroyed by Emperor Hadrian during the Bar Kokhba revolt, where the Jews rebelled against the Roman Empire. Two centuries later, Empress Helena, mother of Constantine I (first Christian emperor), had the entire city rebuilt,” they wrote.
“So I’m guessing the New Bethlehem idea is to rebuild the cities that were destroyed during the US/Gilead civil war and have American refugees move back into the country.”
In the teaser for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 8, Lawrence talks about New Bethlehem in more detail. He calls it a “new settlement,” assuring June that there will be “no handmaids, no hangings” and suggesting that he could reunite June with her daughter, Hannah, there.
New Bethlehem could also serve as a tourist attraction
New Bethlehem may also serve as a tourist attraction. Lawrence could potentially create a settlement that is a more palatable version of Gilead. Tourists would then arrive and boost the Republic’s economy while never seeing the real side of the country where women are raped, executions are public, and violence is part of the law.
“It’s Lawrence’s idea for a more sustainable Gilead,” another Reddit user added. “They’ll die out at this rate, they need people, and tourism, and international relationships for trade purposes… Lawrence wants to open the borders, allow for economic growth, and create a country that thrives and doesn’t just go stagnant. That’s what New Bethlehem will be.”
Don’t miss new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Wednesdays on Hulu.
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