གཟའ་སྤེན་པ། ༢༠༢༤/༠༤/༢༠

Palestinians, Pilgrims Celebrate Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

Hundreds of pilgrims from around the world flocked to Bethlehem, where Christian tradition says Jesus was born, for Christmas Eve celebrations.

Palestinian boy and girl scouts are marching through Manger Square, as Christmas Eve festivities are under way here in Bethlehem.

Some of them are carrying Palestinian flags, as they march past the Church of the Nativity. That's built over the ancient grotto, where tradition says Jesus Christ was born. A lull in Israeli-Palestinian violence has brought the best turnout of pilgrims in five years.

There are, so far, fewer pilgrims than in the 1990s, when the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was on track.

The most notable change, when you arrive at the military checkpoint from Jerusalem into Bethlehem, is a massive wall Israel has built. Israel says the barrier is aimed at keeping Palestinian suicide bombers out of the country. The Palestinians here say that Israel has locked them in a big prison.