- Title: WEST BANK: Last minute preparations ahead of Christmas in Bethlehem
- Date: 25th December 2010
- Summary: BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK (DECEMBER 24, 2010) (REUTERS) CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY, REVERED AS JESUS' BIRTH PLACE, AS SEEN IN SUNRISE ON THE DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS (AUDIO: CHURCH BELLS RINGING) BETHLEHEM'S CHRISTMAS TREE LIT PALESTINIAN POLICE FORCES STANDING IN FORMATION IN FRONT OF CHURCH, IN EARLY MORNING VARIOUS OF SUN RISING OVER CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY VARIOUS OF PALESTINIAN SPECIAL FORCES TRAINING VARIOUS OF PALESTINIAN SPECIAL FORCES MARCHING IN MANGER SQUARE PALESTINIAN SECURITY VEHICLE ARRIVING TO SQUARE SIGN READING 'PALESTINIAN POLICE, EXPLOSIVE ENGINEERING UNIT' MAYOR OF BETHLEHEM, VICTOR BATARSEH, ARRIVING IN MANGER SQUARE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MAYOR OF BETHLEHEM, VICTOR BATARSEH, SAYING: "In fact this year huge numbers of pilgrims arrived to the city. This year, around 1,050,000 pilgrims visited the holy city. Today and tomorrow we expect around 25,000 tourists will attend this year's christmas in the holy city. This improved the economical situation in this city because it became the only income to this city which is suffering from the Israeli occupation and the separation wall." VARIOUS OF TOURISTS FROM AFRICA WALKING TOWARDS CHURCH
- Embargoed: 9th January 2011 12:00
- Location: West bank, West bank
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz,Quirky,Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA9EKBN5GUSSRFBKPSOFQNOSDNA
- Story Text: The town of Bethlehem, revered as Jesus' birth place, made last minute preparations on Friday (December 24) for the arrival of thousands of Christian pilgrims for Christmas celebrations.
Hundreds of Palestinian security men positioned in and around the town, ahead of the planned arrival of the Jerusalem Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal, to lead midnight mass in the Church of the Nativity.
A recent decline in violence has tempted back tourists who no longer fear violence erupting in the streets, and hotel occupancy rates are now above 70 percent compared to a few years ago. The Palestinian ministry of tourism forecasts two million visitors by the end of 2010, and the Israeli tourism ministry expects over 90,000 Christian pilgrims in the holiday season.
Trade in the biblical birthplace of Jesus was devastated in 2000 when a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation began just months after a papal visit and millennium celebrations that had falsely appeared to ensure a secure future for Bethlehem as a tourist attraction.
Israelis attribute some of the current calm on the streets of nearby Jerusalem to the construction of hundreds of kilometres (miles) of walls and security fencing around the West Bank.
The town's Mayor Victor Batarseh said the Israeli-built separation wall has left Bethlehem with only one source of income.
"This year huge numbers of pilgrims arrived to the city... This improved the economical situation in this city because it became the only income to this city which is suffering from the Israeli occupation and the separation wall," Batarseh said.
The 600 kilometre (370 mile) barrier, more than half of which is completed, was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in a non-binding ruling in 2004, but Israel persists with its efforts to complete it nevertheless.
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