News / Middle East

Pilgrims Celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem

A Palestinian girl receives communion from the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal at the Church of St. Catherine, which is connected to the Church of Nativity, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Christmas day, Dec. 25, 2013.
A Palestinian girl receives communion from the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal at the Church of St. Catherine, which is connected to the Church of Nativity, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Christmas day, Dec. 25, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Robert Berger
— The Christian faithful flocked to Palestinian-ruled Bethlehem in the West Bank on Wednesday to celebrate Christmas in the town where it all began.

Thousands of pilgrims from around the world converged on the ancient Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to visit the grotto where tradition says Jesus, the Christian messiah, was born.  An hour in line earned just a few minutes in the crowded grotto, but the faithful said it is a spiritual experience that was worth the wait.

Eliatzur Esaku came from Lagos, Nigeria. “I feel so happy and it is a big grace for me and my people to be here for Christmas because this is where Jesus was born," Esaku said. So it’s a big opportunity for me to be here. It’s a big thing to be part of Christianity and also to be in this church to pray, and I believe our prayers will be answered.”

A long period of relative calm in the West Bank made for a big turnout. And that was good news for Palestinian shopkeepers in Manger Square, like Joseph Jacoman. “[It is a] very nice Christmas. All the people are making nice decorations. It’s a good season. This year is better than last and last,” he said.

This is the first Christmas in five years that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been conducting peace talks. But Palestinians here are skeptical. Jacoman said there is little to show since the Oslo peace Accords of 1993. “I think they are peace talking many years. Nothing is improved since 20 years," he noted. "Every time talking, talking but nothing [is] better. We hope one time they do something. We are waiting.”

In his Christmas sermon, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, called on Israel and the Palestinians to make peace. Twal, a Palestinian, said the message of Christmas is love and reconciliation.

  • Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal arrives at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Dec. 24, 2013.
  • Girls wearing traditional Palestinian costumes take part in a Christmas procession at Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Dec. 24, 2013.
  • Christian pilgrim worshippers from Nigeria pray in the Grotto of the Church of Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2013.
  • Christian worshippers from Nigeria pray at the Church of Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2013.
  • Visitors light candles in the Church of the Nativity ahead of Christmas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Dec. 23, 2013.
  • A nun walks inside the Church of the Nativity ahead of Christmas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Dec. 23, 2013.

You May Like

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

Why Europe and the US may be "whistling past the graveyard?" More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid