(Communicated by the Defense Minister’s Media Adviser)
23 December 2001
Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has today (Sunday), December 23, 2001, approved a series of measures designed to ease restrictions ahead of the Christmas holiday which begins tomorrow (Monday), December 24, 2001, and continues for the coming weeks. The measures are designed to allow both freedom of religion for the various Christian communities in the area and maximum accessibility to the Christian holy places in the Bethlehem area. The measures are as follows:
1. Israeli Christians will be allowed to enter Bethlehem to attend religious ceremonies and visit family members.
2. Israeli buses carrying pilgrims will be allowed to enter Bethlehem.
3. Christians from Judea, Samaria and Gaza will be allowed to enter Bethlehem to attend religious ceremonies and visit family members in Israel.
4. Christian clerics from Israel and Judea, Samaria and Gaza will be allowed to enter Bethlehem.
5. Christian residents of Gaza will receive travel permits to attend religious ceremonies in Bethlehem and visit family members in Judea and Samaria.
6. Visitors from abroad will receive permits to visit Christian relatives in Judea and Samaria.
7. Traffic restrictions will be eased throughout Judea and Samaria for Christian residents en route to Bethlehem for religious ceremonies.
8. In the framework of advance preparations for Christmas, the security establishment has acted to improve the appearance of the entry into Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
9. Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer has ordered IDF forces in the area to strictly maintain appropriate standards of conduct, especially during this period.
Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer expresses his hope that the Palestinian Authority will work, in cooperation with Israel, towards the success of the upcoming festivities, and emphasizes that Israel is, in any event, determined to allow them to be held as always.
Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer has sent holiday greetings to the heads of the various Christian communities.
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