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Bethlehem celebrates Christmas

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Bethlehem celebrates Christmas
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Tourists from around the world join locals to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem, the town where Christians say Jesus was born.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas joined the service at the Church of Nativity.
The 4th Century chapel is built over the spot that tradition says Mary gave birth to Christ.

A UNESCO heritage site, the church is currently undergoing its first renovation since it was built, 17 hundred years ago.

This year has seen a
boost in tourist numbers visiting the Christmas events, due to relative calm in the area.

And a UN resolution condeming Israeli settlements in the West Bank, where Bethlehem is located, has not gone unnoticed.

Austrian tourist Gerald Rockemschaub said: “I feel very privileged to be able to be here with my family and it is very exciting to be here — particularly now that there was a U.N. resolution passed in favour of the Palestinian people so I think it’s a very special day today.”

Another Austrian, Elisabeth Lueger added: “Bethlehem is the place which Jesus was born so it’s a special day for us to come, it’s the first day that we are here in 24th of December, so we celebrated together everybody is happy here”

Along with the Nativity Church, another focal point for Christmas celebrations is Manger square. Pilgrims and tourists gather here to sing Christmas carols under the giant Christmas tree and view the traditional nativity scene.