|Small turnout of pilgrims for Christmas in Bethlehem
[ 2006-12-25 09:43 ]
|Christmas is being celebrated
at the traditional birthplace of Jesus. But there is little Christmas
cheer, as we hear in this VOA report from Robert Berger in the West Bank
town of Bethlehem.
Hundreds of Palestinian boy and girl scouts marched through Manger
Square in Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas. They passed the Church of the
Nativity, where tradition says Jesus Christ was born. Security was tight
-- paramilitary policemen armed with assault rifles stood guard on
rooftops and on the cobblestone streets below.
Bethlehem was decked out
for the holiday. All the trees were lit up with red, white and yellow
lights, and stars and bells illuminated the buildings. Ironically, money
for the decorations came from the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas.
Despite the marches and decorations, an atmosphere of gloom hung over
Bethlehem. Pilgrims who used to come in droves stayed away because of the
war in Lebanon a few months ago and the recent fighting between
That is bad news for Palestinian residents who depend on tourism. Mary
Jakaman owns a shop in Manger Square packed with olive wood souvenirs. She
told VOA there are few customers. "It's not good, you know, because of the
situation here, the tourists are afraid to come here," she said.
Still the few pilgrims who came were glad they did. David Bogenrief is
from the U.S. state of Iowa. "It's joyful being here. We come to celebrate
the birth of Jesus, to see all the people, to sing songs and just praise
God and give him the glory. It's good to be here," he said.
But it was not easy to get here. Pilgrims arriving from nearby
Jerusalem have to cross Israel's massive separation barrier which has
become the de-facto border. Israel says the barrier was constructed to
keep suicide bombers out, but Palestinians say Bethlehem has been changed
from the city of peace into a big prison.
deck out : 装扮）