More than 300,000 visitors are expected to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem. Crossings have been reinforced and restrictions have been drastically reduced
Date: 25/12/2012, 5:09 PM Author: Yael Livnat, IDF (Zahal) Website
With celebrations of Christmas already underway, the Central Command has implemented many steps in recent days in order to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of revelers who are expected to celebrate the holiday in Judea and Samaria. The Christmas period began on Decemeber 12th and will continue until January 20th, during which 300,000 people are expected to visit the city of Bethlehem, a city of only 300,000 people. Every day, high officials from the various sects of Christianity are expected to arrive, accompanied by representatives of the Palestinian Authority and the IDF (Zahal).
Yesterday (Monday), a major mass was held in Latin, the traditional language for the Catholic faith. In addition, the main midnight mass that will be held at the Church of Nativity will be broadcast across the world. According to Lt. Col. Eyal Zeevi, head of the Bethlehem District Coordination Office, over the next 24 hours, over 100,000 people are expected to visit Bethlehem. The heads of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, are also assisting in managing the month’s events. Many foreign diplomats, tourists, and Israeli Arabs are expected to arrive for the celebrations.
COGAT has eased a number of restrictions on movement into and out of Judea and Samaria in honor of the holiday. Lt. Col. Zeevi said that the goal was “to prepare the ceremonies and celebrations so that they can all happen flawlessly. In order to do so, we prepare all the crossings and perform evaluations in order to ensure a smooth movement through the crossings.” Read here for a full description of the eased restrictions.
“The relationship between the IDF (Zahal), Christian officials, and the Palestinian Authority is the best it has been all year. This cooperation is most important and evident during the holidays, where we must work together to prepare and make adjustments in real time,” said. Lt. Col. Zeevi. “These events are a high point for the DCO each and every year.”