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After several years of war and strife chasing tourists and pilgrims away from the place where Mary and Joseph stopped for the birth of Jesus, the little town of Bethlehem has recovered enough stillness for people to return for Christmas:
Despite the foul weather, Bethlehem residents had reason to smile. About 30,000 pilgrims converged on the birthplace of Jesus for Christmas celebrations this year, Israeli officials said, about twice as many as last year and by far the highest turnout since fighting broke out in September 2000.
Although the crowds remain a fraction of the peak years in the mid-1990s, the influx of tourists reflected the improved security situation. Israel and the Palestinians declared a cease-fire last February, bringing a sharp drop in bloodshed. Israel's recent withdrawal from the Gaza Strip also has buoyed spirits. ...
"This was a very, very exceptional Christmas," said Abdel Rahman Ghayatha, the Palestinian police commander in downtown Bethlehem. "We did not expect this big a turnout of people, especially in light of the rain and cold. It was very exceptional and very orderly."
Peace has to start somewhere. Can it be too much to hope that it can start in Bethlehem, even it consists now of serial truces? It gives us a goal for our prayers today, anyway.Sphere It View blog reactions
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Tracked on December 26, 2005 5:37 AM
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