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Bethlehem Calls Off Christmas Festivities

November 30, 2000|From Associated Press

BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Bethlehem's city fathers have called off ambitious plans for Christmas 2000, saying a time of bloody Palestinian-Israeli conflict is no time for merrymaking.

The town of Jesus' birth will be dark and deserted this Christmas--without festive street lights, craft fairs and choirs in Manger Square.

In the last two months, seven Palestinians from the Bethlehem area have been killed in rock-throwing clashes and gun battles with Israeli soldiers.

For most of that time, Israeli travel restrictions have kept tourists and other non-Palestinians out of biblical Bethlehem and other Palestinian towns. These restrictions were tightened 10 days ago, to bar all traffic into and out of Palestinian towns.

The restrictions have battered Bethlehem's economy.

"In view of the very bad situation we are living in, it doesn't make sense that we celebrate while there are still closures and so many people have been killed," said Tony Marcos, a municipal spokesman. "Celebrations for Christmas have been canceled," he said.

Festive street lights still hanging from last year's celebrations, when thousands of visitors crowded Manger Square, will remain unlighted. Concerts have been called off, and the Christmas craft fair will not go ahead as planned.

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