Israel makes good-will gestures for Christmas


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Christian Palestinian residents of the West Bank will be allowed to enter Israel, including overnight, for Christmas.

The gesture is among several being implemented by Israel’s military and Civil Administration for Palestinians celebrating the holiday.

Also, some 300 Christian Palestinians will be allowed to go to Ben Gurion Airport, subject to a security check; 500 Christian Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip over the age of 35 will be permitted entry into the West Bank and into Israel for religious and family gatherings subject to a security clearance; and 200 Christian residents of Arab countries will be permitted to enter the West Bank for the holiday.

Thousands of pilgrims are expected to visit the West Bank city of Bethlehem during the Christmas season. Christmas ceremonies will take place in accordance with the "Status-Quo Principle," relating to the ceremonial traditions established in years past, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Meanwhile, the Israeli city of Haifa unveiled in its city center a 38-foot Christmas tree made of recycled water bottles and other plastic objects. The tree, comprised of 5,480 recycled bottles and illuminated by LED-certified lights, was created by Israeli designer Hadas Itzcovitch and her father, artist Ernest Itzcovitch, to raise awareness of environmental issues.

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