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Tourist numbers up for Bethlehem mass

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Tourist numbers up for Bethlehem mass


15,000 people packed into the square outside, and it was a crowded Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for the Christmas mass.

Pilgims and dignitaries stood side by side to hear Latin Patriarch Fuad al-Tuwal give his Christmas message in six languages, and call on visitors to return home bearing a message of peace.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was among the guests, but it was not a moment for politics. In fact, with mild weather there was a tangible festive atmosphere, and locals said after years of tourists staying away attendance was up and hotels were expecting a 60 to 70 percent jump in business this year.

However the celebrations took place within sight of Israel’s security wall, which cuts off Bethlehem from nearby Jerusalem, a reminder that peace and goodwill to all men remains a distant prospect in the Holy Land.

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