Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem 370.
(photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
The IDF is set to issue permits to some 500 Palestinian Christians residing in Gaza allowing them to travel to the
West Bank, specifically Bethlehem, for Christmas. Additionally, at least 20,000
entrance visas will likely be issued to Christian pilgrims who are expected to
visit Bethlehem from abroad for the holiday.
The IDF traditionally
decreases its activities in the Bethlehem area around the holiday in order to
facilitate Christmas celebrations among the Christian community. Pilgrims
usually make their way to Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
sources have dismissed a report saying PA security forces have disrupted their
cooperation with the IDF recently, describing it as baseless.
tourists are expected to visit the country this Christmas, a third of them
Christian pilgrims, the Tourism Ministry said on Tuesday.
percent of all visitors to Israel are Christian. The Christian community is a
central anchor in marketing incoming tourism to Israel,” said Tourism Minister
To accommodate the influx, for 24 hours the ministry
will offer free transportation between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, with shuttle
buses leaving every 15 to 20 minutes from Mar Elias Monastery to the Church of
the Nativity in Manger Square and back, from December 24 at noon to Christmas
day at noon.
The ministry said it expects 2012 to break the incoming
tourism record; around 3.3 million foreign visitors came by the end of November.