X

In Bethlehem, No Room at the Inns, Again

As Christmas descends, pilgrims crowd West Bank town where they believe Jesus Christ was born
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 24, 2019 8:16 AM CST
In Bethlehem, No Room at the Inns, Again
A visitor lights a candle at the Church of the Nativity built on top of the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Eve, in the West Bank City of Bethlehem, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019.   (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

(Newser) – "All hotels in the city are full today," says Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maaya as thousands of Christian pilgrims descended on the West Bank town of Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, ahead of Tuesday's annual Christmas Eve celebrations. The Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born, was set to host Palestinian dignitaries and pilgrims from around the world for a midnight Mass. Uniformed Palestinian scouts wearing yellow and gold capes paraded past visitors in Manger Square, bedecked with a large Christmas tree, playing drums and bagpipes. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, crossed an Israeli army checkpoint from Jerusalem to Bethlehem ahead of the holiday prayers, where he was greeted by prominent members of Bethlehem's Christian community.

story continues below

Pizzaballa tells the AP that he draws hope from the “desire, especially in the youth, to do something for their societies, families.” "This is my hope, is that these people can make Christmas not just today, but everyday, because that's what we need,” he said. Christmas festivities are typically a boost for Bethlehem's flagging economy and for the Holy Land's dwindling Christian population, which has shrunk over the decades compared to the general population. Maaya said the number of foreign tourists visiting the West Bank rose to 3.5 million in 2019, from 3 million the previous year. At least 15,000 pilgrims were staying overnight in Bethlehem for Christmas, she said. Most of Bethlehem is in the Palestinian-controlled area of the West Bank, but Israel’s imposing separation barrier runs through part of the city and is a constant reminder of the complex political reality.

(Read more Christmas stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
X
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.

X