Crowds gather together in Bethlehem’s Manger Square to celebrate Orthodox Christmas

Posted On January 7, 2007

Filed under News Middle East

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Bethlehem Nativity Celebrations  Bethlehem > Heavy rains mixed with the tears of joy on Saturday and Sunday in Manger Square despite the abysmal internal situation, the ongoing blockade and the Israeli occupation. Children’s eyes lit up at the Christmas parade, while crowds rushed to greet the Roman Patriarch’s convoy.

For eastern Christmas the Patriarch’s first stop on his way to the Church of Nativity from Jerusalem was at the Mar Elias Monastery in Beit Jala. The mayors of Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and Bethlehem all came out to greet him, as did representatives of Bethlehem organizations and dignitaries in the Orthodox Church.

Some Israeli officials in the Civil Administration occupying the central West Bank Bethlehem District also came to greet the Patriarch as he passed through the Wall.

The procession moved into the streets lined with well-wishers from the Wall at the military installation of Rachel’s Tomb in northern Bethlehem. Israeli forces opened the gate that separates Bethlehem from itself. The Patriarch was greeted by Palestinian police and other security bodies who escorted him in a parade through the streets of Bethlehem and into the dizziness of the crowds in Manger Square.

Bethlehem’s Mayor, Dr. Victor Batarsa, and the Bethlehem District Governor Salah Tamari, several members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and officials in the security services, stood together as Boy Scout troupes of all ages sang their traditional tunes and the drum corps marched through. The crowd was estimated at being several thousand and the heavy rain added to the feeling of togetherness.

Inside the Church the Patriarch gave a special prayer as a prelude to Midnight Mass, which was attended by President Abbas. Mayor Batarsa said that the mood throughout Palestine is sad with the Israeli siege increasing in severity, while the Tourism Minister said that the people would prevail due to their deep faith and the justice in the Palestinian cause.

The Patriarch condemned the Israeli Wall and said that he hoped the new year would bring peace, security and stability to the holy land.