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InvestmentsLast Christmas was grim, Bethlehem hopes this year will be better By...

Last Christmas was grim, Bethlehem hopes this year will be better By Reuters


© Reuters. Foreign vacationers stand in Manger Square as they go to the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem within the Israeli-occupied West Bank November 18, 2021. Picture taken November 18, 2021. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma


By Zainah El-Haroun

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Reuters) – The trickle of vacationers is typically scarcely sufficient to fill a manger, not to mention an inn, however Bethlehem’s Palestinians are hopeful that numbers will rise within the month earlier than Christmas.

The conventional birthplace of Jesus was all however shuttered by the pandemic final year, ravaging the tourism-dependent financial system and main some hoteliers to contemplate promoting up.

But this year Israel has eased curbs on overseas vacationers in time for Christmas, though everybody stays cautious of a winter coronavirus wave.

While grateful for the return of some overseas vacationers and Christian Palestinians from the West Bank and Israel, it’s a far cry from the three.5 million guests who got here in winter 2019, simply earlier than the pandemic.

“Of course the numbers are very few, but as a start, as a beginning, I think it’s good,” Palestinian tourism minister Rula Maayah informed Reuters. “Hopefully very soon these few hundreds will be a few thousand.”

The diminished numbers have a minimum of improved the expertise for many who are there.

One of simply three sensible vacationers standing in an otherwise-deserted Manger Square on Nov. 17, Danish pilgrim Trina Dybkjaer stated their timing appeared ultimate.

“I came to see where Jesus was born,” she said, looking up at the half-decorated Christmas tree outside the Church of the Nativity.

“I can almost feel the history of how it was back then. It hasn’t been, at least today, destroyed by a lot of tourists.”

Bethlehem’s municipality scaled again the city’s Christmas market final year and banned most spectators from the tree-lighting ceremony.

But Mayor Anton Salman stated this year’s celebration will proceed as regular on Dec. 4, with guests requested to put on masks. He anticipated round 15,000 individuals, principally Palestinians.

Across Bethlehem, souvenir-sellers and hoteliers say they’re struggling to make a residing.

“We have Christmas reservations from Britain, Colombia, the U.S., all over, we can’t complain about that,” stated Joey Canavati, supervisor of Nativity Street’s Alexander Hotel.

“We just don’t know what will happen next week, or next month – will there be another COVID wave? Will everything shut down again?”

(Zainah El-Haroun reported from Bethlehem; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Stephen Farrell and Giles Elgood)

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