The Israel Defense Forces said it is working to facilitate the observance and celebration of Christmas for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.
IDF officials met with representatives from the Bethlehem Municipality, the Palestinians Security Forces, international organizations and religious representatives in order to coordinate preparations for the Christmas holiday season. Over 300,000 visitors are expected to visit Bethlehem during the Christmas season.
Israeli security personnel will be increased at crossings near Bethlehem to allow pilgrims and tourists comfortable access to the city, the IDF said in a statement Wednesday.
The IDF also will facilitate the visit of an “unlimited” number of Christian Palestinians from the West Bank to Israel, and will authorize 200 special permits for Palestinians who reside abroad to visit the West Bank, according to the IDF. Some 500 Palestinian Christians from Gaza, under 16 and over 35, will be allowed to visit Israel and the West Bank during the holiday season.
“Israel is making a significant effort to safeguard freedom of religion in the area, facilitate participation in religious ceremonies and ensure that Christians in the region enjoy the holiday spirit,” said Lt. Col. Eyal Zeevi, head of Bethlehem District Coordination Office.
This story "Christmas Coming to Bethlehem — and Israel's Ready" was written by JTA.