Of visitors are expected to gather in bethlehem this christmas for a procession to the church of the nativity, one of the oldest sites of continuous christian worship. the event is taking place amid the backdrop of the recent election of benjamin netanyahu to a historic sixth term in power, with this new government being considered the most right-wing in israel’s history. this comes as violence between israelis and palestinians has been on the rise, and the policies of the incoming government have caused concern among businesspeople in the area.
the procession is taking place in december of 2020, in the city of bethlehem in the occupied west bank. tourist numbers have been down due to the covid-19 pandemic, and lockdowns have limited festive family gatherings. however, visitors from palestine, galilee, the gaza strip, and around the world have still come to the church in smaller numbers than the record level seen in 2019.
the procession is being led by scout bands playing bagpipes and drummers escorting church leaders from jerusalem to manger square. although the numbers of visitors are not yet at 2019’s record, palestinian tourism minister rola maayah has reported that bethlehem is seeing more and more tourists. mariana al-arja, the hotel manager, recalled two years ago when the balconies were packed with friends and relatives watching the parade, but this was not allowed. despite the difficulties, people like rayson kamalayos from india are still considering it a “dream” to visit bethlehem and celebrate the occasion.