Church of the Nativity in Brthlehem 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel will permit 21,000 Christian residents of the West Bank and 5,000 Christians from the Gaza Strip to enter the country during the Christmas holiday, according to Israel Radio.
The announcement was made late Monday night by the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, IDF Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, during a meeting he held with Christian leaders in east Jerusalem.
Dangot was quoted by Israel Radio as saying that the defense establishment will ease restrictions on Palestinian movement in the territories in order to enable Christians to celebrate the holiday in a way that is "fitting."
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.
Tens of thousands of tourists are expected to visit the country this Christmas, many of them Christian pilgrims.
Midnight Christmas mass at the 1,700-year-old Church of the Nativity, constructed at the spot where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, attracts thousands of worshipers every year.