JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted Christmas greetings on Facebook.
“It’s a pleasure for me, on Christmas eve, to be here, standing in Jerusalem, the holy city,” Netanyahu said in a video greeting, standing on a balcony overlooking the city.
“I’m very proud to be the Prime Minister of Israel. A country that says Merry Christmas, first to its Christian citizens, and to our Christian friends around the world,” Netanyahu said in the video released on Sunday evening, on Christmas eve.
“I’m proud that Israel is a country in which Christians not only survive, but they thrive! Because we believe in this friendship among people. And we protect the rights of everyone to worship in the holy shrines behind me,” the prime minister also said.
In the video Netanyahu promises that next Christmas he will lead a guided tour of Christian holy sites in Israel.
Christians gathered in Bethlehem on Sunday evening for an annual parade and other events, ending in midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity. Reports said that many tourists stayed away from the city fearing violence and protests in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Extra police officers reportedly were deployed at crossings in Jerusalem and Bethlehem for the holiday.