Coronavirus robs biblical Bethlehem of Christmas cheer

Virus Outbreak Bethlehem Christmas

Christians take photos inside the Grotto of the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Normally packed with tourists from around the world at this time of year, Bethlehem resembles a ghost town – with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops shuttered by the pandemic. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — The coronavirus has cast a pall over Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, all but shutting down the biblical town revered as Jesus’ birthplace at the height of the normally cheery holiday season.

What’s missing are the thousands of international pilgrims who normally descend upon the town in the West Bank. Restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops are closed.

The renowned Christmas tree lighting service will be limited to a small group of authorized people, as will church services on Christmas Eve.

For Bethlehem, there is no sign of the pandemic ending or tourists visiting anytime soon. One hotel owner put it starkly by saying: “Bethlehem is dead.”

Categories: Coronavirus, National News