Regardless of a second yr of journey restrictions due to COVID-19, the city of Bethlehem, the location of Jesus’ beginning, is reviving its annual Christmas Eve celebration.
“Final yr, our competition was digital, however this yr will probably be head to head with standard participation,” Bethlehem Mayor Anton Salman instructed the Related Press.
On a typical Christmas, the biblical city is a well-liked vacation spot for vacationers from across the globe. A median of three million vacationers come annually. A lot smaller crowds attended the vacation celebrations in Bethlehem on Friday, accompanied by gloomy climate.
“It’s extremely unusual,” mentioned Kristel Elayyan, a Dutch girl married to a Palestinian, who got here to Bethlehem from Jerusalem. “If it is one yr, it is an fascinating expertise,” she instructed Agence France-Presse. “However as a result of that is the second yr and we do not know what will come sooner or later, it is an enormous loss for the folks right here.”
Occasions included conventional marching band parades and road celebrations. Scout bands with drums and flags gathered in Manger Sq. to rejoice the vacation.
Whereas celebrations are scaled down this yr, Salman is hopeful that 2021’s festivities will exceed final yr’s, when residents have been pressured to rejoice inside their properties due to lockdown restrictions, the AP reported.
Israel’s ban on practically all incoming air site visitors, which has lasted two years, continues to stop vacationers from coming into the occupied West Financial institution, and subsequently, the historic city.
The journey ban to curb the unfold of COVID-19 was lifted in November to permit overseas vacationers in however was quickly reimposed with the emergence of the extremely contagious omicron variant. Coinciding with the vacation season, the illness’s latest pressure has hampered Christmas celebrations.
With out the flood of vacationers, native authorities hoped that the Holy Land’s small Christian neighborhood would preserve the vacation spirit alive.
Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the highest Roman Catholic clergyman within the Holy Land, celebrated a midnight Mass on the Church of the Nativity, the grotto the place Jesus is claimed to have been born.
“In comparison with final yr’s Christmas, the participation is way higher, and that is an encouraging signal,” he instructed the masked congregation, however regretted the absence of overseas worshippers due to the pandemic.
“We pray for them and on the similar time ask for his or her prayers, so that each one this may occasionally finish quickly and that town of Bethlehem could as soon as once more be filled with pilgrims,” he mentioned, in keeping with AFP.