Christmas in Bethlehem Behind Barb Wire

Bethlehem, Israel (RushPRnews)12/24/08-Thousands of Christian pilgrims have flocked to the West Bank town of Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas.The faithful are gathering around Manger Square, which marks the site where Christians believe Jesus was born. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to attend a midnight mass Wednesday night. Earlier Wednesday, a band of Palestinian boy scouts kicked off the holiday celebrations with a performance of Christmas music.

Security is expected to be tight through the holiday season. Pilgrims must also pass through an Israeli army checkpoint in order to get into Bethlehem, which is separated from Jerusalem by an eight-meter concrete wall – part of the barrier Israel has constructed around the West Bank.

Israel says the barrier is necessary to protect its citizens from Palestinian attacks, but opponents of the wall say it is in violation of international human rights law.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.