Little Green Footballs

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Adeste, fideles

Christmas in Bethlehem is back, whether Charles Johnson likes it or not:

Holiday spirit returned to Bethlehem on Saturday for the first time in six years as thousands of foreigners and local people packed the town of Jesus' birth for Christmas Eve celebrations.

Lining the streets on a crisp, windy day, pilgrims gathered in Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity — built over the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born — to watch a procession of marching bands, bagpipe players and boy scout troops.

They also watched Jerusalem's Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the top Roman Catholic official in the Holy Land, enter town for the Christmas celebrations.

Whipping winds blew the hats off boy scouts and police officers and knocked down metal security barriers. Yet the streets were packed with visitors excited about spending the holiday in one of Christianity's holiest sites.

So what's changed since last Christmas?
Israel's summer withdrawal from the
Gaza Strip and a sharp drop in violence this year contributed to the joyful atmosphere, which buoyed the spirits of Bethlehem residents and tourists in the festively decorated town. Forecasts of a rare snowfall added to the sense of excitement.

"It's really amazing. When you hear about all the conflict between Israel and Palestine, really I was expecting things to be a little bit — rougher," said Stephen Ogden, 23, of Knoxville, Tenn.

Good for him. And good for Israel and the Palestinians too. Not so good for the lizards -- because the very last thing they want is the merest wisp of a suggestion of an inkling of an iota of a suggestion that most Paleoswinians™ are people too.

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