Arts & Entertainment

Festivities get under way in Bethlehem with Christmas tree lighting

Jerusalem, Dec 3 (EFE).- Amid a large crowd and a festive air reminiscent of pre-Covid-19 times, municipal authorities and religious leaders in Bethlehem presided Saturday over the lighting of the Christmas tree in front of the Church of the Nativity.

The spectacle included fireworks and musical performances from a giant stage erected in Manger Square for the occasion.

The economy of the West Bank city of 25,000 depends heavily on spending by religious pilgrims and tourists, a source of revenue that was cut off for more than two years thanks to Israel’s decision to close its borders to international visitors because of the pandemic.

With the lifting of the restrictions, people from around the world are again traveling to the birthplace of Jesus.

“The tourists are returning and we are recovering,” Joseph Giacaman, owner of a souvenir shop on Manger Square, told EFE, adding that he expects the volume of visitors to increasing as Christmas approaches.

Restaurateur George Joha said that business is picking up at his establishment in the center of Bethlehem, which he shuttered for two years during the hardest period of the pandemic shutdown.

“The situation is much better,” he told EFE. “People began to come back in September.” EFE jma/dr

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