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.
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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid