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Thousands Mark Christmas Eve in Bethlehem
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Posted on 12/24/2005 9:05:38 PM PST by Sub-Driver

Thousands Mark Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Writer 7 minutes ago

Thousands of tourists and pilgrims gathered in Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations Saturday, bringing a long-missing sense of holiday cheer to Jesus' historic birthplace.

The festivities capped the most peaceful year since the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting in September 2000. But Israel's imposing separation barrier at the entrance to town dampened the Christmas spirit and provided a stark reminder of the unresolved conflict.

The gray concrete wall, which Israel erected to keep attackers out of its cities, divides Bethlehem and blocks access to neighboring Jerusalem. The 25-foot-high slabs drew as much attention Saturday as the Church of the Nativity and the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born.

About 30,000 people were expected to visit Bethlehem over Christmas — 10,000 more than last year — but still very different from the 1990s, when 150,000 people would visit during the holiday. By early evening, 7,000 tourists had arrived, Israeli officials said, despite stinging cold winds and pouring rain. Hundreds more arrived for midnight Mass, though a final crowd estimate was not immediately available.

At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI offered a Christmas prayer for peace in the Holy Land.

"On this night, when we look toward Bethlehem, let us pray in a special way for the birthplace of our Redeemer and for the men and women who live and suffer there," the pope said. "We wish to pray for peace in the Holy Land."

Spirits in Bethlehem were buoyed this year by Israel's summer withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a sharp drop in violence. Forecasts of a rare white Christmas added to the excitement.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Israel; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: bethlehem; christmaseve

1 posted on 12/24/2005 9:05:39 PM PST by Sub-Driver
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To: Sub-Driver

Bump. I got to go to Bethlehem, Saturday December 17, 2005, in an Armored Vehicle Convoy that departed from the the American Consulate in Jerusalem. It was wonderful to see the Church of the Nativity and the Milk grotto where Mary nursed Jesus, away from the Manger. And like the article states, there is a fence that separates the lawlessness of a society seeped in violence, from the clam European-American Modern State of Isreal.

2 posted on 12/25/2005 2:34:56 AM PST by Jumper
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To: Jumper

clamness to all on this holy day

3 posted on 12/25/2005 4:19:07 AM PST by bessay
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To: dennisw; Cachelot; Nix 2; veronica; Catspaw; knighthawk; Alouette; Optimist; weikel; Lent; GregB; ..
If you'd like to be on or off this middle east/political ping list, please FR mail me.
Articles on Israel can also be found by clicking the keyword Israel.


4 posted on 12/25/2005 6:30:34 AM PST by SJackson (There's no such thing as too late, that's why they invented death. Walter Matthau)
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To: SJackson

Merry Christmas AND Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

5 posted on 12/25/2005 8:07:37 PM PST by WaterDragon
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