In the midst of the cold, rain, and violent winds, 30,000 tourists still flocked to the little town of Bethlehem on the outskirts of Jerusalem. While most gathered at Manger Square for the parades and concerts, awaiting the midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity, the traditional place of Christ’s birth, other evangelical congregations such as the Jerusalem Baptist Church held their own services in Bethlehem. PA-Head Mahmoud Abbas attended the Midnight Mass (r. in Photo)
The holiday spirit once again returned to this Palestinian Authority controlled town. The sharp rise in terrorist activity with the Palestinian uprising has deterred visitors from the place of Christ’s birth. Prior to the uprisings (before 2000), millions of tourists and pilgrims would flock to Bethlehem for the holidays. Yet, shopkeepers were satisfied with this year’s number of visitors because business was better than usual.
In Pope Benedict XVI’s first Christmas mass as pope, he offered up a special prayer for the Holy Land. “Where there is conflict, give birth to peace. Where there is hatred, make love spring up! Where darkness prevails, let light shine,” he said.