Bethlehem, the tiny town in the Judean hills near Jerusalem where Jesus Christ was born in a lowly manger nearly tow thousand years ago, was beginning to liven up this week as thousands of pilgrims poured into the normally quiet hamlet to celebrate Christmas--the birth of Christ.
Bethlehem, the tiny town in the Judean hills near Jerusalem where Jesus Christ was born in a lowly manger nearly tow thousand years ago, was beginning to liven up this week as thousands of pilgrims poured into the normally quiet hamlet to celebrate Christmas--the birth of Christ. and the beginning of Christianity. One thousand pilgrims will be able to congregate on Christmas Eve (December 24) in the Church of Saint Catherine--which stands beside the underground grotto that marks the original stable, or manger, where Christ was born.
A few hundred others will be able to fit into the tiny underground Church of the Nativity in the grotto itself, to take part in the midnight service marking the important religious occasion, recognised by Roman Catholics and Western Christians generally on December 25. But celebrations in Bethlehem and elsewhere do not end there--for the Greek and Eastern Orthodox churches, who have not adopted the modern calendar, celebrate Christmas on January 6, and the Armenians celebrate it twelve days later still.
SYNOPSIS: Bethlehem, the tiny hamlet in the rugged Judean hills where Jesus Christ was born nearly two thousand Years ago, has been livening up in recent days as thousands of pilgrims pour into celebrate the birth--and the beginning of Christianity. Centre of the bustle was Manger Square, which was to be fully lit for the celebrations beginning on Saturday, the eve of the day Christians recognise as Christmas--and continuing well into January, marking the dates recognised by Greek, Eastern and Armenian Christian churches.
Bethlehem makes its main living off tourism. The number of visitors grows each year--some fifteen thousand during December last year, and more were expected this year. The town itself, meanwhile, lives peacefully under Israeli administration--as it did under Moslem Jordan between 1948 and 1967, with the British mandate before that, and under Turks, Moslems, Christian crusaders and Romans in times dating back to the birth of Christ. Today, it still attracts a variety of sects. Opposite the Christian churches in Manager Square, where Christ was born in a stable, stands a Mosque....from whose minarets the Moslem faithful are called to prayer in competition with the pealing bells of the churches drawing Christian worshippers.
While pilgrims and local residents gather Christmas trees in this tiny hamlet, only six miles from Jerusalem, security tightens up to try and prevent any violent incidents. But Bethlehem has managed to live free from the tensions of the Middle East, and Christmas has not been any exception in recent years. Since the Israeli administration took over, the only incident was a cut television cable in 1967. Peace and goodwill prevails, in the original home of a philosophy which preaches it.