Christmas cheer abounds in sunny Bethlehem
A festive mood gripped a sunny Bethlehem on Friday as tourists flocked in record numbers to celebrate Christmas in the town where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born.
The weather in Bethlehem was unseasonably warm, with clear blue skies and plenty of sun to warm tourists and Palestinians gathered in Manger Square to await the arrival of Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal in a traditional march.
At least 90,000 people were expected to flood the town for the celebrations, according to Palestinian Authority figures.
Unlike in years past, when the spectre of unrest and violence kept visitors away from its 24 hotels, instead staying inside Israel, Bethlehem hoteliers were expecting many tourists to stay over on Friday night.
The Christmas season will cap a year of unprecedented tourism for Bethlehem and the Palestinian territories, where visitor revenues are sorely needed.
"We continue to believe that on both sides, and in the international community, there are men of goodwill who will work and put their energies together in their commitment for peace," he said in his address on Tuesday.
"We believe that nothing is impossible with God."
True words. Nothing is impossible with God.
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