News / Middle East

Pilgrims Flock to Bethlehem’s Nativity Grotto on Christmas

Christian worshippers and tourists celebrate at the Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
Christian worshippers and tourists celebrate at the Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Robert Berger
— The Christian faithful thronged to Palestinian-ruled Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas in the town where it all began.

Thousands of pilgrims from around the world flocked to the West Bank town of Bethlehem to visit the Grotto of the Nativity, revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. They stood in long lines to spend just a few minutes in the crowded, stuffy grotto; but for the faithful, it was worth the wait.

Lucy Nunn of North Carolina in the United States was moved to tears. “Really thankful to be here. Thinking about Jesus being born, here, it was just special,” Nunn said.

Moriah Lamb came from Houston, Texas. “I think it’s very meaningful and it’s a very special time of year because it’s the time when Jesus was born. And to be here during that time it’s a very spiritual experience and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Lamb said.

  • A general view of Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, is seen on Christmas eve in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
  • A Palestinian girl watches a Christmas parade outside the Church of Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
  • A Palestinian boy scout marching band parades during a Christmas procession at Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem,December 24, 2012.
  • A member of the clergy holds a cross as he waits for the arrival of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
  • The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal (C) prepares to bless the crowd outside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
  • A Catholic pilgrim touches a column inside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem,December 24, 2012. Thousands of Christian worshipers and tourists arrived in Bethlehem to mark Christmas at the site many believe Jesus Christ was born.
  • Christian worshipers visit the Church of Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, ahead of Christmas, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 23, 2012.
  • A Christian worshiper walks out of the Church of Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
  • A Palestinian vendor sells balloons and Christmas hats at Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, on Christmas eve in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.

About 75,000 tourists visited Bethlehem this Christmas, 25 percent fewer than last year. Many people stayed away because of last month’s conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza.

The lower turnout is a blow to the Bethlehem economy, which depends on tourism. Palestinian shopkeeper George Kanavati says foreigners have a misperception that Bethlehem is not safe, even though it is ruled by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority and not Hamas.

“Some people, they feel afraid and they prefer not to come. They think like Gaza is somewhere around Bethlehem and they said, oh, it’s problems and conflicts there and violence, and we are not going to dangerous places,” Kanavati said.

Erica Marusich of Denver, in the U.S. state of Colorado, said for her family, security was not an issue.

“I feel very safe here. I think the people are very kind, and I don’t have any second thoughts about coming here,” Marusich said.

Bethlehem can only be reached by passing through Israel. And since tourism benefits Israelis and Palestinians alike, both sides had an interest in promoting the Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem. There was strong cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the atmosphere was peaceful and calm.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Charlie from: California
December 25, 2012 4:31 PM
You fail to mention that Bethlehem is being choked to death by Jewish settlements on every hill top and it is being sqeezed to death by Israe's wall, not a fence but a King Kong sized wall to steal as much land now while the US provides political cover and money to continue settling Jews with guns across the West Bank. Welcome to the aparteid one state solution.


by: ed mays from: brick nj
December 25, 2012 3:32 PM
Peace and calm between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in Bethlehem at Christmas...now that`s what we need year round.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid