Bethlehem To Have First Palestinian Christmas This Year
Aug. 23, 1994
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) _ Palestinians for the first time will be in charge of Christmas celebrations in the city where Jesus was born.
The announcement was made Monday by the Israeli and Palestinian tourism ministers.
The Palestinian minister, Elias Freij, is also mayor of Bethlehem, and for six years he led efforts to shut down the city of 30,000 at Christmas because of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule.
On Monday, he said he was considering inviting world leaders to Bethlehem for the holiday.
''We would like to celebrate Christmas this year under the flags of peace,'' Freij said.
Palestinians are to gain control of tourism under the phase of the Israel- PLO peace accord that extends some Palestinian powers beyond the Gaza Strip and Jericho to the rest of the West Bank.
Israel's tourism minister, Uzi Baram, said a joint Israeli-Palestinian committee would meet next week to work on promoting and marketing Bethlehem Christmas celebrations.
Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian businessmen have already joined in planning joint regional ventures, and Israel signed a tourism agreement with Jordan last week as part of its peace plans with that country.