Bethlehem Tourism Increases as Violence Declines

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There has been a record number of tourists visiting Bethlehem, Israel this year. Hotel rooms have been fully booked for Christmas week, due in part to the declining violence on the West Bank.

Already this year, 1.4 million tourists have visited the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

The Israeli government said 90,000 visitors will likely visit the Holy Land during the Christmas season. The numbers of visitors have been rising steadily in recent years.

"We believe that the economic situation in comparison to previous years is more stable and is improving," said Samir Hazboun of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to gather in Manger Square on Christmas Eve, right in front of the local church.

Over two-thirds of Bethlehem's 50,000 Palestinian residents claim to be of the Muslim faith, but the town takes advantage of its place in Christian history.

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