According to the Mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh, 25,000-35,000 "pilgrims and tourists" visited his city on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year. This is twice as high as last year's numbers.
As Bethlehem shopkeeper Jacques Aman put it, "This year is very much better than the last seven years for tourism. The atmosphere is better in general. There is relative calm, from the security standpoint."
After praying at the Midnight Mass, President Mahmoud Abbas, who is a Muslim, "We pray next year will be the year of independence for the Palestinian people."
Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, said during the Midnight Mass that "This land belongs to God. It must not be for some a land of life and for others a land of occupation and a political prison" (BBC).