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.
    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

    Pentagon: Afghan Hospital Bombing Not a War Crime

    US Central Command's Joseph Votel says probe found tragedy was result of 'extraordinarily intense situation' that included multiple equipment failures

    US Minorities Link Guns with Other Social Ills

    New study finds reduction in gun violence could help lower America’s incarceration rate – the world’s highest - and improve relationships between police, citizens in minority communities

    US Millennials Beat Baby Boomers as Largest Living Generation

    America's young people are about to take over and here's what we can expect from them

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora