Merry Christmas: Thousands Gather in Bethlehem to Celebrate Jesus

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On Christmas Day, local Christians in the West Bank were joined by thousands of pilgrims and tourists from around the world to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the biblical and historical town of Bethlehem. Security in the town was tightened, and spirits were high and mighty considering the ongoing violence in the territory in recent weeks.

Traditional Christmas songs like “Jingle Bells” played over loudspeakers, while performers entertained viewers with bagpipe melodies and sang carols. The square was illuminated by festive red and golden lights and a large Christmas tree, and tourists were able to shop at souvenir stores and restaurants.

28-year-old teacher Sharolyn Knight from Georgia said it was her first time visiting Bethlehem. She says the experience gave her a mixed bag of emotions. “It’s been sobering and humbling because it’s a place with a lot of heavy stuff, religious and historical. At the same time, disillusioning because there is so much strife in the place where Jesus was born.”

“It’s very unique, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Rodrigo Reis, 23, who came from Louisville, Kentucky, “It’s very meaningful, its Christmas time, where everything started.”

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