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Bethlehem prepares for Orthodox Christmas

Jan. 5, 2013 8:05 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 7, 2013 2:19 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- As temperatures drop and rain falls on the holy land, Bethlehem, considered to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, prepares to host Orthodox Christmas celebrations on Sunday.

The Assyrian Patriarch is scheduled to arrive in the city at 8 a.m., followed by the Coptic Patriarch at 10.30 a.m. and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch at 2 p.m.

The Ethiopian Patriarch will arrive at 3.30 p.m.

Scouts will march in front of each parade, Palestinian Authority minister of tourism Rula Maaya told Ma'an, confirming that President Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will attend a mass in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.

Each international tourist who spends Orthodox Christmas in Bethlehem will be given a Christmas card stamped by the Palestinian Authority ministry of tourism, she said. The cards will be delivered to hotels in Bethlehem.

The Patriarchs will enter Bethlehem through a checkpoint at the northern entrance of the city, passing by Rachel's Tomb, or Bila Ibn Rabah Mosque, Bethlehem police chief Alaa Shalabi told Ma'an.

They will then continue to the Nativity Church through the city's historic Nijma street, except the Assyrian Patriarch who will use Nativity street.

There will be a heavy police presence in Bethlehem's streets throughout the day, Shalabi added.
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