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Christmas festivities begin in Bethlehem

Christmas events will be held by a variety of Christian denominations throughout the city. Roman Catholic festivities will be held on 24th December. Celebrations during the Christmas season are highly important for the city, acting as a boost for the local economy through tourism.

Bethlehem's mayor Anton Salman said: "We will have the Christmas market for two days. After that, we have a Christmas village for the children. Then we have a lecture of the meanings of Christmas in the Palestinian community from an academic point of view and from the religious point of view. We have a choir and orchestra that is going to take place at the Church of the Nativity. Then we have the most amount of Santa Clauses we have ever had visiting the city."

Salman says they are expecting many tourists this year, 220,000 flocked to the city in November. This year the city's Christmas theme is joy, "Joy for the world, for all the people and all those who believe and are celebrating Christmas," Salman said.

The Israel Defense Force's Civil Administration, which works in coordination with the Palestinian Authority, organized the passage of the Custodian of the Holy Land from the Mar Elias Monastery to Bethlehem, accompanied and protected by the IDF, Israeli Police and Israel Border Police.

The coordination between various security agencies are designed to ensure and protect freedom of worship for all denominations in the city, while also maintaining security and order in the area.

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