Bethlehem, West Bank (AP) – Palestinians are preparing to host pilgrims from around the world in celebrating Christmas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, crossed an Israeli military checkpoint from Jerusalem on Monday ahead of midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
Hundreds of locals and foreign visitors gathered in Manger Square as bagpipe-playing Palestinian Scouts paraded past a giant Christmas tree.
Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maaya says “the whole world is looking toward Bethlehem” and the Palestinians are ready to host them.
The Christmas festivities traditionally bring a boost of holiday cheer to Christians in the Holy Land, who make up just a small percentage of the local population.
December 22nd – December 30th 2018
During the Christmas season, Bethlehem in Palestine welcomes Christian worshipers from all denominations from all over the world. An estimated 10,000 were in the Square on Christmas Eve last year! It is an exciting, colorful and lively time during which a message of hope is broadcast around the world by the large number of media agencies covering Manger Square in which the Church of the Nativity is found.
What will we do?
You are invited to take part in this unique experience with To Be There. We have a well-planned a program providing you with opportunities to enjoy the Christmas season as well as gain an understanding of ancient and recent history, and how the occupation affects the lives and the future of Palestine and its people. Topics which will be covered during your visit include Palestinian refugees, their legal status and the hardships they face; Israeli settlement colonies which contribute to the forcible displacement of Palestinians and land theft; the treatment by Israel of Palestinian children and the documented violations of their rights; Palestinian political prisoners and their treatment under military law; the Israeli infrastructure of occupation and apartheid – walls, security zones, check points and much more.
Why should we come?
Palestinians enjoy welcoming foreign guests to participate in the procession to the Church lead by Palestinian scout groups from all over Palestine and Israel accompanied by the music of horns, bagpipes and drums. However, Christmas is experienced differently Bethlehem, providing an example of how Palestinians enjoy such occasions while living under the Israeli military occupation which imposes sever hardships on the people, restricting their freedom of movement, their livelihoods and economic and social well-being. Sadly, the occupation and its policies have turned Bethlehem in to a ghetto around which Israel continues to tighten the noose with its encroachment and development of settler colonies, ‘Jewish only’ restricted roads and security zones, checkpoints and military installations. In fact, Israeli controls 90% of tourism into Bethlehem. Christmas in Palestine is an opportunity to visit Palestine, to make a contribution to this vibrant community during the Holiday Season and witness the reality of occupation.
May we all have a Merry Christmas.