A man walks along a deserted street near the Church of the Nativity in the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem
A man walks along a deserted street near the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem
Photo: AFP
A man walks along a deserted street near the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem

Palestinians may limit Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem

Ramallah recommends strict limits on festivities due to coronavirus pandemic, a deadly blow to West Bank city's economy - which relies heavily on pilgrims and tourists during the holiday period

Associated Press |
Published: 11.22.20 , 21:41
The Palestinian Health Ministry has recommended strict limits on Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
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  • Celebrations in the biblical town revered by Christians as Jesus’ birthplace are usually attended by thousands of people from around the world.
    A man walks along a deserted street near the Church of the Nativity in the occupied West Bank town of BethlehemA man walks along a deserted street near the Church of the Nativity in the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem
    A man walks along a deserted street near the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem
    (Photo: AFP)
    But this year, the ministry has recommended the upcoming Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Manger Square be limited to 50 people, with the lights of the tree and area restaurants closed at 9pm throughout the Christmas season. In its recommendations Saturday, it said religious services on Christmas Eve should also have limited attendance.
    Bethlehem’s economy, filled with hotels, gift shops and restaurants, relies heavily on the Christmas season. The cancellation or scaling back of the celebrations will deal another blow to an economy that already has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis this year.
    A priest stands inside the deserted Church of the Nativity in the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem A priest stands inside the deserted Church of the Nativity in the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem
    A priest stands inside the deserted Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem
    (Photo: AFP)
    Palestinian officials are expected to make a final decision on Christmas celebrations in the coming days. Israel’s international airport — the main entry point for foreign travelers — has been closed to tourists for months, limiting the potential numbers of pilgrims in any case.
    The West Bank is in the midst of a spike in coronavirus cases, while Israel is only slowly emerging from a lockdown imposed in September to control a raging outbreak. The northern Israeli town of Nazareth, revered by Christians as the place of Jesus’ childhood, has been designated a “restricted” zone by authorities, limiting movement in and out of the area for at least the next few days.

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