After a dark decade, Bethlehem has witnessed a growing number of tourists visiting the Christ’s traditional birthplace, raising hopes of a tourism boost despite Israel’s separation barrier.
For several years of unrest, Palestinian Christians have been quietly abandoning the place where Jesus is said to have been born.
The Palestinian territories’ top tourist spot is a victim of the barrier which cuts off the town from nearby Jerusalem.
Israel started working on its sprawling barrier in 2002 at the height of the uprising.
Palestinian tourism minister Rola Maayah considers the barrier as a key obstacle to attracting tourists to the town.
“We could develop tourism, attract people from all over the world, but it’s not possible because of the Israeli occupation,” Maayah explained.
Since last year, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, hailed as a “historic diplomatic victory,” the town has been witnessing a tourist boom that could boost the local economy.