IDF representatives conducted meetings with representatives from the Bethlehem Municipality, the Palestinians Security Forces, international organizations and religious representatives in order to coordinate preparations for the upcoming Christmas holiday season.
During the course of the season, which begins December 19, 2013, and concludes on January 20, 2014, the IDF and COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) will take measures in order to facilitate Christmas celebrations among the Christian Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
During the course of the holidays, the presence of security personnel will be increased at the crossings in the Bethlehem area in order to facilitate efficient access of pilgrims and tourists to and from the city.
During the holiday season the IDF will facilitate the visit of an unlimited number of Christian Palestinians from Judea and Samaria to Israel. Also, at the request of the Palestinian Authority, Israel will authorize 200 special holiday permits for Palestinians who reside abroad, to visit Judea and Samaria. Approximately 500 Palestinian Christians from Gaza, under the age of 16 and above 35, will be eligible to visit Israel and Judea and Samaria in order to enjoy and participate in the holiday festivities.
Lt. Col. Eyal Zeevi, head of the Bethlehem District Coordination Office, said, “During the holiday season Israel is making a significant effort to safeguard freedom of religion in the area, facilitate participation in religious ceremonies and ensure that Christians in the region enjoy the holiday spirit.”
This article has been reprinted with the permission of the IDF Blog.