BETHLEHEM, West Bank — The traditional birthplace of Jesus is celebrating its merriest Christmas in years, as tens of thousands of tourists thronged Bethlehem for the annual holiday festivities in this biblical West Bank town.
Officials said the turnout for Christmas Eve was shaping up to be the largest since 2000. Unseasonably mild weather, a virtual halt in Israeli-Palestinian violence and a burgeoning economic revival in the West Bank all added to the holiday cheer.
By nightfall Friday, a packed Manger Square was awash in red, blue, green and yellow Christmas lights.
Israeli officials have said they expect about 90,000 visitors in Bethlehem during the current two-week holiday season, up from 70,000 last year.