- Title: WEST BANK: Palestinians in Bethlehem prepare for Christmas
- Date: 23rd December 2005
- Summary: (BN13) BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK (DECEMBER 20, 2005) (REUTERS) WIDE OF SPECIAL 'STAR MARKET' FOR CHRISTMAS/ PEOPLE LOOKING AT MARKET VARIOUS OF PEOPLE STROLLING BETWEEN STANDS OFFERING CHRISTMAS GIFTS AND DECORATIONS CLOSE OF SIGN FOR "CHRISTMAS MARKET" IN ARABIC AND ENGLISH WIDE OF STALL HOLDER ARRANGING WOODEN FIGURES OF NATIVITY ON STALL CLOSE OF WOODEN FIGURES OF NATIVITY WIDE OF PEOPLE LOOKING AT STALL SELLING RELIGIOUS GOODS/ ICONS /CROSSES CLOSE OF CHRISTMAS SANTA DECORATION AND PICTURE OF CHRIST ON STALL WIDE OF PEOPLE AT MARKET CHRISTMAS MARCHING BAND, PLAYING ARAB BAGPIPES WIDE OF MAYOR AND LATIN PATRIARCH APPLAUDING MARCHING BAND
- Embargoed: 7th January 2006 12:00
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA8BT1F2H9TB2H85UFY8N84KP5P
- Story Text: Bethlehem, which is said to be the birthplace of Jesus, is getting ready for one of its most important religious event, Christmas.
The celebrations for Chrismas were severely reduced due to a renewed Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But a recent ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militants groups has revived hopes that the tourists would return this Christmas in unprecedented numbers.
Hundreds of Palestinian Christians from the West Bank city of Bethlehem's residents flocked the Christmas 'Star Market' in the city's main street on Tuesday (December 20), to shop for holiday gifts, decorations and sweets.
Merchants from all over the West Bank exhibit traditional handicrafts, arts, souvenirs, and food in dozens of shops along the street. With music and occasional live performances, the Christmas Market is scheduled to remain open till January 6.
The colourful stands offering various Christmas merchandise and the holiday ornaments hanging on the trees created the market's flickering and vivid site.
Men and women strolled between the stands, shopping and enjoying the holiday spirit.
The market is held, for the first time in five years, traditionaly ahead of Christmas in Bethlehem's 'Star' street which is the city's oldest street and the traditional entrance to the old city.
Today, the one kilometre-long street is still the route taken by political and religious officials arriving on Christmas Eve to the Church of Nativity.
Once a centre of economic life, the Israeli army's raids and closures during the five year long Palestinian uprising caused the street's detriment, as most of the the shops closed down. The street has been recently renovated by the Bethlehem 2000 authority but then destroyed durring the incursion, now it is slowly regaining the vitality of the past.
Elsewhere in Bethlehem, about 20 young men are sitting in front of their wood carving machines, carving miniature figurines of Christian saints and Middle Eastern symbolic items.
The men, working in the factory that manufactures Olive trees' wood figurines, are particularly busy this time of the year, ahead of the arrival of Christian pilgrims to the city, for the first time in five years, to celebrate Christmas.
The family moved to Bethlehem from the village of Ein Kerem on the outskirts of Jerusalem during the 1948 Middle East war - when many Arab residents of the village fled or were forced to leave. The family abandoned its workshop in Ein Kerem and it took them 14 years to reestablish the business in their new home in Bethlehem.
"We are the forth generation, my great grandfather used to work by hand there were no machines and after 1962 when my father established this factory we bring some machine we start to bring some machines, not all things done by machine, it just help us to make good work, but all the details and good work it is made by hand," Isam Nassar said.
The factory owner told Reuters Television that he is working his men harder than ever in order to manufacture as many figurines as possible, hoping they will all be sold to the visiting tourists.
"This year the situation is good, the tourists are going to come to Bethlehem from five years we did not have any tourists now they begin to come and the situation is begining to be much better, you know we depend on the tourists to sell our work," he added.
The olive tree is considered to be a blessed tree that symbolizes wealth and prosperity. It has several benefits and is a source of living for many Palestinian families in the holy land, as it being used for eating, producing oil, soap and furniture. The olive tree branch also symbolises peace, according to the biblical story of Noah's ark.
Many of Bethlehem's residents, as well as Palestinian officials, are hoping for tourists from around the world to arrive to the city en mass to celebrate Christmas.
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