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Bethlehem rebounds from pandemic, lifting Christmas spirits as thousands are expected to visit

The biblical city of Bethlehem marked what was shaping up to be a merry Christmas on Saturday, with thousands of holiday makers expected to descend upon the standard birthplace of Jesus as it rebounds from the coronavirus pandemic.

Tourism is the financial lifeblood of this city within the occupied West Bank, and for the previous two years, the pandemic saved worldwide guests away. This year, guests are again, inns are full and native shopkeepers have reported a brisk business within the runup to the vacation.

“We are celebrating Christmas this year in a very much different way than last year,” stated Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maayah. “We’re celebrating Christmas with pilgrims coming from all over the world.”

Palestinians Bethlehem Christmas
Palestinian scouts march throughout a Christmas parade in the direction of to the Church of the Nativity, historically believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, within the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022.

Maya Alleruzzo / AP


At noon Saturday, lots of of individuals have been participating in Christmas Eve celebrations in Manger Square. Marching bands pounding on drums and taking part in bagpipes paraded by way of the world, and international vacationers meandered about and snapped selfies with the city’s giant Christmas tree behind them.

Daisy Lucas, a 38-year-old Filipina who works in Israel, stated it was a dream come true to mark the vacation in such an necessary place.

“As a Christian walking in the places in the Bible, it’s so overwhelming,” she stated. ‘This is the birthplace of Jesus Christ. As a Christian, that is one achievement that is on my bucket record.”

Palestinians Bethlehem Christmas
People collect in Manger Square, adjoining to the Church of the Nativity, historically believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, within the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022.

Mahmoud Illean / AP


Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the highest Roman Catholic clergyman within the Holy Land, was expected to arrive from close by Jerusalem to greet well-wishers. Later, he was to have fun Midnight Mass within the close by Church of the Nativity, constructed on the spot the place Christians consider Jesus was born.

Billions of Christians have been ushering within the vacation, wrapping up a tumultuous year characterised by battle and violence in lots of elements of the world.

In war-ravaged Ukraine, the glitzy lights usually unfold over over Kyiv’s Sophia Square are lacking due to restrictions and energy cuts. Instead, a modest tree embellished with blue and yellow lights barely break the gloom of the sq.. Mayor Vitali Klitschko has known as it the “Tree of Invincibility.”

In the United States, a wild winter storm continued to envelop a lot of the nation, bringing blinding blizzards, freezing rain, flooding and life-threatening chilly that created mayhem for these touring for the vacation.

Present-day actuality was seen at Manger Square as banners exhibiting photographs of Palestinian prisoner Nasser Abu Hamid have been prominently displayed. The veteran prisoner died of most cancers final week in an Israeli jail clinic after spending some 20 years behind bars for his conviction within the deaths of seven Israelis.

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