- Title: WEST BANK: BETHLEHEM PREPARES FOR CHRISTMAS.
- Date: 24th December 2001
- Summary: BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK (DECEMBER 23, 2001) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 1. CHURCH DECORATION BROUGHT INTO CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY/ PEOPLE DECORATING INSIDE CHURCH/ CHURCH INTERIOR/ ICONS AND CANDLES BURNING INSIDE THE CHURCH 2. PREPARATIONS FOR MIDNIGHT MASS CEREMONY/ PRIESTS REHEARSING/ VARIOUS PEOPLE PRAYING IN CHURCH/ VARIOUS PREPARATIONS FOR MIDNIGHT MASS/ PEOPLE DECORATING THE CHURCH 3. CHILDREN LIGHTING CANDLES/ CHILDREN PRAYING/ ICON OF MADONNA AND CHILD/ CANDLES AT CHURCH 4. EXTERIOR OF THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY 5. VATICAN REPRESENTATIVE, PAPAL NUNCIO PIETRO SAMBI, OUTSIDE THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY 6. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SAMBI SAYING: "Never the words Christmas and peace were so far like now. It is true, but exactly the values of Christmas we should work to bring them in the individual and public life, so that again Christmas will mean peace, individually, in the family and among the people in society". 7. PEOPLE DECORATING A CHRISTMAS TREE WITH PICTURES OF PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT YASSER ARAFAT. 8. EXTERIOR OF CHURCH AT NIGHT 9. PEOPLE HOLDING CANDLES/ CHRISTMAS TREE OUTSIDE THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY/ PEOPLE HOLDING CANDLES 10. PEOPLE HOLDING PICTURES OF ARAFAT 11. PEOPLE WALKING IN THE STREETS AND SINGING Initials Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
- Embargoed: 8th January 2002 12:00
- Location: BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Reuters ID: LVADJ3CHGKEBKCWR0WNYZ17HYNF2
- Story Text: Palestinian residents of Bethlehem are in the midst of
preparing the West Bank city for Christmas, despite a pall
cast by over a year of Israeli-Palestinian violence and
Israel's refusal to allow Palestinian President Yasser Arafat
visit the traditional birthplace of Jesus for his annual
The thousands of tourists and pilgrims who once filled
Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, will not
visit the West Bank town this year, scared away by violence
between Israelis and Palestinians during a the 15-month
Palestinian uprising and the closures imposed on the city by
As preparations were under way for the Midnight Mass at
the Church of Nativity on Monday (December 24), Israel said on
Sunday (December 23) it will not allow Palestinian President
Yasser Arafat to arrive in Bethlehem and pay his traditional
Christmas visit to the city, saying he was not acting "to
dismantle Palestinian terror organisations".
Arafat has attended Christmas Eve services at the Church
of the Nativity since the town came under Palestinian rule in
1995. Christians believe the church on Manger Square to be
built on the spot where Jesus was born.
Nevertheless, Bethlehem residents continued decorating the
church. They placed Arafat's picture on a Christmas tree in
Manger Square, and prayed for the elusive peace.
"Never the words Christmas and peace were so far like
now. It is true, but exactly the values of Christmas we should
bring them in the individual and public life, so that again
Christmas will mean peace, individually, in the family and
the people in society", Vatican representative Papal Nuncio
Pietro Sambi said on Sunday.
Arafat told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah
that no one would prevent him from going to the town of Jesuss
In order to get there, the 72-year-old leader would have
to travel more than 20 km (12 miles) through
Israeli-controlled West Bank terrain to reach Bethlehem.
But Arafat has been grounded since Israel destroyed his
personal helicopters in the Gaza Strip and stationed tanks
near his Ramallah office after a Palestinian attack on a
Israeli bus near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank killed
10 people on December 12.
Besides preparing for the Mass, Bethlehem municipality
authorities were busy patching up streets and re-erecting
signposts which were damaged when Israeli armour rolled into
Bethlehem in October after Palestinian militants assassinated
an Israeli cabinet minister in retaliation for Israel's
killing of one of their leaders.
Israel has since pulled back its troops to Bethlehem's
Israel, along with the United States and the European
Union, have piled pressure on Arafat to crack down on militant
groups, responsible for a wave of suicide bombings in Israel.
The Palestinian Authority has said it has arrested dozens
of militants. Six people were killed and more than 80 wounded
Gaza gun battle that erupted between Palestinian police and
militants angered by the arrests.
Before the clashes on Friday, the militant Hamas movement
said it was halting attacks in Israel until further notice in
the interests of Palestinian unity. Officials of the Islamic
Jihad movement have put out mixed signals about whether the
group would follow suit.
But Israel claims the announcements were part of a secret
deal with Arafat to avoid his crackdown.
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