During the holiday season, all the crossings into Bethlehem will be open 24 hours a day.

 Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories meets with Church leaders about Christmas

 

Palestinian schoolchildren visit the Grotto at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (Photo: Reuters)

(Communicated by the Ministry of Defense, Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories)

The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, and the Head of the Civil Administration in Judea, Brig. Gen. Yoav (Poly) Mordechai, met today (Tuesday) with Christian leaders, including church heads and Patriarchs, in honor of the upcoming Christmas holiday and offered them best wishes for the new calendar year. The two also updated the religious leaders about the coordination and preparations that have taken place ahead of the religious ceremonies that will mark the season.

Maj. Gen. Dangot and Brig. Gen. Moredchai met with the head of the Franciscan monastery, the Custodian of the Holy Lands, the Ambassador of the Vatican, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, the Armenian Patriarch, and the Latin Patriarch to update them about the series of goodwill gestures for the Christian population of Judea and Samaria that have been approved by the Minister of Defense and Chief of the General Staff.  Furthermore the Christian leaders were informed that more than 300 Christian Palestinians from the Gaza Strip will be allowed exit and thus celebrate the holiday traditionally in a manner that respects freedom of religious expression.

The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, informed the church leaders about the readiness of Israeli security organizations for the upcoming holiday, which includes security coordination between the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Police, the Border Police, the Bethlehem Municipality, and Palestinian security forces. Furthermore, it was emphasized that during the holiday season, all the crossings into Bethlehem will be open 24 hours a day. Additional staff from the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria will be present at to ensure easy passage for visitors.

The church heads expressed their great appreciation for the strong cooperation and coordination that has taken place with the Civil Administration in the fields of religious freedom, Christian holy sites, security issues, and overall quality of life.

The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories and the Head of the Civil Administration wished the religious leaders a merry Christmas and a happy new year on behalf of the Defense Minister and Chief of the General Staff. They also highlighted the importance placed by Israel on the celebration of holidays of all faiths as well as the defense establishment’s desire to see religion as a uniting force. Finally, the two expressed their hope that the new year would be one of peace, development, and cooperation.

The Christmas holiday begins on December 24 and extends until January 19, 2010. During this period, different Christian groups will commemorate the occasion in Bethlehem with different ceremonies, the most central of which are the crossing of the Patriarch’s convoy from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and the midnight mass to be held at the Church of the Nativity.