A giant Christmas tree was lit up during an annual ceremony in Bethlehem on Saturday.
The ceremony was held in front of the city’s Church of the Nativity, which stands on the site where Jesus was supposedly born.
Thousands of attendees were treated to a re-enactment of a nativity scene on a large stage, as well as performances by traditional dancers.
Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Hanania addressed the crowd from the stage and delivered a Yuletide message of Christmas unity.
“Honorable attendees, our message in this year’s Christmas goes under the slogan: ‘the Spirit of Christmas Unites us.’ It is the spirit of Christmas that unites the world and brings our nations closer; it is the purely Palestinian town of Bethlehem that bonds the world to its message. Let’s give Bethlehem and Palestine the justice they deserve, and the peace its people are entitled to,” he said.
Historically, the event has attracted thousands of visitors from all over the world. A travel ban imposed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic prohibited foreign tourists from attending for two years.
This year, Israel lifted its travel band and foreign tourists have flocked to Bethlehem for the ceremony which marks the start of the holiday season.