Few people gathered in Manger Square in Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, on Christmas Eve (December 24) due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns about the Omicron variant.
Bethlehem was hoping to turn it into a Christmas shopping attraction with a wave of foreign tourists, but the Omicron variant dashed those hopes in November by closing down international travel.
In striking contrast to what would normally be a frenetic scene, a relatively small crowd of faithful gathered at Manger Square for a second year in a row.
Bethlehem hosted 3.5 million visitors during its last pre-pandemic winter, in 2019-2020.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa will lead this year’s reduced celebrations, but 86-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be absent from the annual Midnight Mass at the Nativity Church, a Palestinian official said.
(Production:Yosri Al-Jamal, Mohammed Abu Ganeyeh, Adel Abu Nehme, Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh, Roleen Tafakji)